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Flu Takes Toll In Northern Indiana

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Courtesy of the Indiana Dept. of Health
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The Indiana State Department of Health says Hoosiers are battling a widespread distribution of influenza-like illnesses. By Feb. 24, a total of 244 Indiana residents have died this season from what is believed to be flu-related illness.  

Over the course of the week between Feb. 17 and Feb. 24, four northern Indiana counties suffered enough influenza-associated deaths to put them over the threshold for reporting.

DeKalb, Elkhart, Noble, and St. Joseph counties all now have over five influenza-associated deaths. Adams, Grant and Allen counties were already over the threshold. Allen County now has 20 influenza-associated deaths, up two from the week before.

  

There have been 102 long-term care facility outbreaks and six school-wide outbreaks in Indiana this season. By Feb. 17, six of those long-term care facilities were located in Allen County.

An outbreak in a long-term care facility is defined as three cases or 10 percent of residents diagnosed with the same infection in one defined area within 48 hours. When an outbreak occurs, it’s reported to the state’s department of health and there are measures implemented to try and stop the outbreak.

Director of Community Health and Case Management at the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health, Erika Pitcher says first the facilities will report to the local health department and then to the state’s long-term care division and together they decide if the facility is experiencing an outbreak.

“It's just purely based off of numbers and statistics whether or not it meets outbreak status. We will get calls proactively from long-term care facilities that might say, we just had two cases diagnosed what do you recommend? And they will implement our recommendations before they actually reach outbreak status,” said Pitcher.

In Allen County there have been 18 influenza-related deaths this flu season. The highest number of influenza-associated deaths in the state. During the same time last year Allen County had not reported any deaths due to low reporting thresholds.

About 78 percent of patients being treated in hospitals for influenza-like illnesses are 24 or younger, but 80 percent of flu-related deaths come from individuals 65 and older.

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