Flu cases down, despite first Indiana death of the season

(WTHI File Photo)
(WTHI File Photo)

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Doctors nationwide say they are seeing an uptick in the number of patients coming down with the flu. Last month, Indiana health officials reported the first death of the season.

Dr. Richard Reed is in the beginning of a flu season, but that’s not why his office has been busy. “So far, we’ve just had nothing. Strep throat is pretty big right now and colds, a lot of colds.”

Reed sees patients at MedExpress in Terre Haute. Only two people have tested positive for influenza. Overall, flu activity is currently minimal across the state and locally, but the number of patients falling ill is expected to rise.

The virus ramps up in the winter months because it can survive longer in colder air and because people gather together.

“The thing to remember is, it’s a viral illness. Antibiotics don’t do anything to turn it around,” said Reed.

There are some simple ways you can protect yourself. Practice the three C’s; clean, cover and contain. First and foremost, wash your hands frequently to get rid of germs, cover your cough or sneeze in your arm, and stay home from school or work when you’re sick. “It’s spread by droplets, people sneezing, so all of those things are really important to diminish the spread,” said Reed.

The best defense? Rolling up your sleeve. According to the CDC, this year’s flu shot appears to be well-matched to the strains out there.

“It was very effective. It looks like it’s right on the money with effectiveness. The vaccine is very important. It prevents millions of people each year from going to the doctor, because they got the shot,” said Reed.

Although anyone can get the flu, some people are at higher risk of flu-related complications, such as pneumonia, hospitalization and death. High-risk individuals include pregnant women, young children (especially those too young to get vaccinated), people with chronic illnesses, people who are immune-compromised and the elderly.

Flu season in Indiana historically runs from January through March, but the virus is present year round and can have a severe effect on the very young and the elderly.