The number of flu deaths in Indiana has risen to 30, and one of the main culprits is the H1N1 virus.
20 of the deaths recorded by the State Department of Health this flu season have been of people between the ages of 25 and 64. The other ten are of people 65 and older.
H1N1 typically affects younger and healthier people more than other strains of flu.
“In all but three of the (deaths of people 64 and younger), they were caused by H1N1, and the other three cases, the deaths were caused by Influenza B,” says Shawn Richards, the department’s respiratory epidemiologist.
Many of those younger people who died from flu did not get a flu shot according to information given to the department.
“The issue is if that question was answered on the investigation form. Of the information we have collected, only four of (those who died) had been vaccinated,” Richards says.
She added that the vaccine was still the best deterrent. “The issue wasn’t the vaccine as much as it was the health condition or how that responds with an individual’s body to create enough antibodies to protect themselves.”
One reason H1N1 may be affecting younger people more than other flu strains may because the country went several decades without seeing the virus.
“The theory is that if you were born after 1977 or before 1957 and it was the first time you have been infected with an influenza virus, you should have an increase memory, so you have increased protection from H1N1,” Richards says.
She adds that may be the reason there have been no flu deaths among people younger than 25, though juvenile flu deaths have been reported in other states.
Six deaths have been recorded in both Marion and St. Joseph Counties this season.
Counties are not required to report a specific number of flu deaths to the state if they have had fewer than five.