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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Don’t wait to get your flu shot

Posted on Jan. 4, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Jan. 4, 2014 at 2:57 p.m.

On the CDC’s weekly influenza map, brown indicates widespread flu activity. You don’t want your state shaded in brown.

Indiana is brown.

Influenza has already killed three Hoosiers this season, including a 25-year-old woman from St. Joseph County,

“We don’t want to scare people,” Dawn Wilkins, an infection prevention nurse at Elkhart General Hospital, told an Elkhart Truth reporter Thursday. “But we do want people to be concerned.”

Concerned enough to get flu shots and practice good hygiene.

Vaccinations work. Last winter, during a moderately severe influenza season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that flu vaccines prevented nearly 80,000 hospitalizations and 6.6 million illnesses. Of those 80,000 people who avoided hospital stays, an estimated 69 percent were those most vulnerable to the flu — children up to age 4 and adults 65 and older.

The CDC says that overall, vaccinations cut flu cases and hospitalizations by 17 percent last season. If vaccination rates had hit 70 percent, the CDC estimates that Americans could’ve avoided roughly 4.4 million additional illnesses and 30,000 more hospitalizations.

Yet despite through mid December 2013, fewer than half of Americans had gotten flu shots. No wonder influenza is spreading across Indiana.

IU Health Goshen reported that flu hospitalizations in December 2013 doubled over the same month a year earlier. Officials at Elkhart General saw an increase in influenza cases about two weeks ago.

Wilkins said that most of the patients at EGH are young or middle-age adults — the population expected to be hardest hit by the H1N1 virus. It was H1N1 that killed the 25-year-old from St. Joseph County.

Healthy adults can infect others 24 hours before developing symptoms. They can continue spreading the virus for up to seven days after becoming ill. For children, it’s even longer.

Small children cannot protect themselves from someone ill. Often, neither can the elderly. And the H1N1 virus shows no mercy to young and middle-aged adults.

So flu shots remain our best hope of avoiding an epidemic.

It’s time to reject the myths associated with influenza vaccines. As the CDC points out, you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Vaccines are safe and rarely cause serious allergic reactions, but when they do occur — usually within a few hours — they can be effectively treated. Scientific studies show that vaccines cannot be linked to autism.

In a Friday news release announcing the state’s first three influenza deaths of the season, Indiana Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D., urged people to get flu shots.

“The recent deaths remind us that influenza can be very serious and even deadly,” he said. “I encourage all Hoosiers to become vaccinated from flu to protect themselves, their families and the community.”

You can usually get a flu shot at the county health department, doctor’s offices and pharmacies. Indiana provides a flu vaccine locator at www.StateHealth.in.gov.

Use it. Get a flu shot today, if you haven’t already.

Otherwise, you not only put your own life at risk — you threaten the health of the entire community.

Flu symptoms:

· A fever of 100 degrees or higher.

· Headache.

· Fatigue.

· Cough.

· Muscle aches.

· Sore throat.

To help prevent the spread of flu:

· Clean your hands often with soap and warm water.

· Cover your cough and sneeze using your sleeve or a tissue.

· Contain your illness by staying home when you are sick.

Source: Indiana State Department of Health

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