ELKHART — Despite nationwide concern that flu season has begun as early as it has in 15 years, Elkhart County is not yet experiencing a significant outbreak, although health officials are urging everyone to get vaccinated.
The early outbreak nationwide means peak flu season could also occur earlier than normal, officials say, and the last flu season where the outbreak peaked early was a bad one.
“We really don’t know what this flu season will be like because they can vary widely from one season to the next,” Elkhart County Health Director Lydia Mertz said.
Officials generally consider a flu season underway when a significant number of doctor’s visits are related to flu-like symptoms over the course of three weeks. Cases are rising in the Southern states, with Louisiana considered the first state hit. Doctors there say they’ve been seeing flu-like illnesses since October.
Nationwide, flu season was declared underway last week. On Friday, there were an estimated 1.7 million influenza cases, 16,000 hospitalizations and 900 flu-related deaths nationally.
The southern section of Indiana has also been experiencing a fair amount of cases, but Mertz said Elkhart County has seen only scattered cases. She estimates that Elkhart has seen two or three cases a week, where normally this time in the season, 10 or 12 cases might be reported.
“If we have a mild flu year, that will be just fine for me and everybody else, but it’s way too early to let our guard down,” Mertz said.
She reminded everyone to get their influenza vaccine, and wash hands regularly to help prevent the spread of the virus.
“The very most important thing is stay home if you’re sick and wash your hands. You can’t beat soap and water,” she said.