ELKHART — Widespread cases of the flu seem to be subsiding, according to Dr. Daniel Nafziger, infectious diseases physician at IU Health Goshen.
January saw 240 reported cases of the flu in Elkhart County, he said, and the running total of reported cases in February is close to 20. One flu-related death in Elkhart County was recorded by the Elkhart County Health Department this year.
“It does appear we are on the downside of the flu curve,” said Nafziger. “There’s a natural ebb and flow to these things.”
Seasonal influenza cases usually tend to follow a trend, he said, with most cases occurring during the same time period. While Nafziger saw his sickest flu patients in December, most of them came through during January.
“That’s when we peaked this year,” he said.
Although flu cases seem to be less frequent, Nafziger and Geoffrey Rogers, medical director at The Elkhart Clinic, said prevention is still important.
“It’s good to get the flu shot,” said Rogers. “It won’t prevent all influenza, but as best as we can predict, it gives you your best chance of avoiding a major life threatening illness. It’s the best thing we’ve got.”
Both Nafziger and Rogers also added that covering coughs, washing hands and staying home while sick are good ways to avoid spreading the flu.
Rogers said “influenza is an aggressive respiratory infection, usually with high fever and cough.”
Many people use “flu” to describe other illnesses involving stomach symptoms, but he said “that’s just a gastrointestinal bug. That isn’t influenza and the influenza vaccine will not stop that.”
When the H1N1 strain of influenza broke out in 2009, it disproportionately affected elderly people and those with health concerns. Nafziger said these people should especially be careful in preventing the flu this year.
“The flu has been similar to other years, although with somewhat more H1N1 this year,” he said. “Younger people, obese people and pregnant women may see more than their usual share of severe illness.”
“It’s not too late to get vaccinated,” he said.
The Elkhart County Health Department will offer flu vaccine clinics every Wednesday through April.