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State health officials say at least seven more people have died in Indiana from flu-related illnesses as this year‘s strains are hitting some young and middle-aged adults harder than usual.
The Indiana State Department of Health says in its weekly report that the state has had 37 total deaths so far this flu season, which is 10 fewer than the same time last year.
But officials say nearly two-thirds of this season‘s deaths have been among those between the ages of 25 and 64.
About 80 percent of last year‘s deaths at this time were people older than 65.
Indiana State Department of Health Respiratory Epidemiologist Shawn Richards says one factor could be related to when a person was born.
She says people born around a time when influenza was more common could have better immunity to the particular strains that are going around this year.
“Between the years 1957 and 1977 the influenza H1 didn’t circulate,” she says. “Therefore you didn’t have the opportunity to get that boost immunity.”
Indiana has the 13th worst flu vaccination rate, and those between the ages of 18-64 has a particularly low rate of 32 percent.
The Indiana State Department of Health is trying to increase that rate using targeted advertisements such as ads for flu shots at Colts games, which tend to have a younger audience.
Dr. Laura Knudson, who specializes in family medicine at IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians, says the best way to prevent the flu is to practice basic personal hygiene.
“The most important thing to prevent the flu is actually washing your hands—the most important everyday preventer step. Wash your hands, wash your hands,” she says.
Knudson says it’s not too late for people to get vaccinated. She says flu vaccines are still available for anyone over 6 months old.
State health officials say Marion and St. Joseph counties are the only ones in the state with five or more flu deaths this season.
The state does not receive statistics for counties with fewer than five deaths.