GREENSBURG – Earlier this week, the Daily News reported the beginnings of an influenza (flu) outbreak spreading across Indiana.
The Daily News spoke with several staff members at Decatur County Memorial Hospital (DCMH) to learn more about the specific flu strain currently making its way through the Hoosier population. DCMH clinical laboratory director Trudy Ewing said H1N1 is the predominant strain of influenza in Indiana this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Right now in Indiana, if you have the flu; it’s likely H1N1,” Ewing said.
H1N1 was first identified in 2009 as the swine flu, when it burst onto the scene and caused an uproar. Since then, the virus has mutated slightly, but not enough to move it into another class, or type. Ewing said H1N1 is a bit more aggressive and harder to fight off than other strains of the flu, which typically effect young children and elderly adults. However, with H1N1, those who may usually be better equipped to fight off the flu, like older children and young adults, are coming down with the illness as well. According to Ewing, it’s simply harder to fight off.
Indiana residents can take action to protect themselves from the flu. According to the CDC, as well as numerous local health professionals, the flu vaccine is the single most effective step anyone can take to protect themselves from catching and spreading the influenza virus. Frequent hand washing is the second most effective action one can take to prevent flu-related illness.
“The CDC monitors which strains of the virus are active each year and uses that information to make the vaccine. This year, the vaccine is tailored to protect against H1N1,” Ewing said, adding that receiving the vaccine does not guarantee one will not catch the flu.
The lab at DCMH is a sentinel lab, which means when they receive positive results for influenza from their rapid screening kits, they send the samples on to the state to be typed for strain. That information is then reported to the CDC for use in developing the vaccine.
DCMH infection control coordinator David Pavey agreed that getting the flu vaccine is the biggest step one can take to prevent influenza-related illness. However, Pavey provided a few other things people can do to boost their immune systems and overall health.
“Apart from vaccination and good hygiene practices, preparing your body for the flu season can be as simple as trying to live a healthy lifestyle. You need to make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, manage your stress, be physically active, stay well hydrated, and eat nutritious foods - a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables should contain the vitamins and minerals needed to help your immune system,” Pavey said.
With the flu season getting into its most active time, Decatur County residents need to be aware that it is not too late to receive the influenza vaccine and its associated benefits. One can receive the vaccine for free at the Decatur County Board of Health during the walk-in clinics on Tuesday afternoons, or by calling for more information. The Decatur County Board of Health is located at 801 North Lincoln Street and can be reached at 812-663-8301.
Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004; firstname.lastname@example.org