INDIANAPOLIS — Four elderly Hoosiers have died from the flu so far this season.
That number is twice as many as this time last year, according to records kept by the Indiana State Department of Health.
All four deaths in Indiana so far this season have been people over the age of 65.
Part of the reason for that increase, may be because the flu season got an early start this year. The winter flu season in the United States can begin as early as October and end as late as May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the late November start for 2019 makes it the earliest start in the country since 2003-2004.
Health officials consider a flu season to be in full swing when a significant percentage of doctor’s office visits are due to flu-like illnesses for at least three weeks in a row.
An early start to the flu season could signify it's going to be a bad one, but health experts say it could be too soon to tell how the 2019-2020 flu season will go, according to the Associated Press.
In Indiana, the flu is already considered widespread, whereas this time in 2018 it was only localized.
Several hospitals in central Indiana have already issued visitor restrictions because of the flu outbreak.
These temporary restrictions include, but are not limited to:
- No visitors with symptoms of influenza.
- No visitors under the age of 18.
- Visitors limited to immediate family as identified by the patient.
Visitors are encouraged to check a healthcare facility’s website or call in advance about its restrictions and any exceptions.
During the most recent weeks for which figures are available, just over three percent of all Marion County hospital visits were flu-related. That's high enough to put visitor restrictions in effect.
People who suspect they are infected with influenza should stay home from work or school and seek evaluation by a medical provider, health officials say.
People with the highest risk for experiencing complications of influenza include:
- Children less than two years old and adults older than 65.
- People with a weakened immune system.
- Individuals with chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular, renal, hepatic, hematological, and metabolic disorders.
- People who are obese.
- Women who are pregnant or during the first two weeks after giving birth.
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Typical symptoms of the flu include:
- Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
While there is no cure for the flu, some medications can help ease symptoms, according to health officials.
How can you tell if you have the flu, allergies or the traditional cold?
If you are feeling the effects of allergies, you typically won't have a fever or much fatigue or body aches. If you have a cold, you might have a mild fever and some body aches. You might feel weak and even have some ear congestion. Colds generally last about a week.
If you're diagnosed with the flu, wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands and stay home.