INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Flu deaths in Indiana have climbed to 40 this season and it's too soon to tell if the spread of the illness is slowing statewide, state health officials said Wednesday.
Marion County health officials said visits to the emergency room increased 28 percent Jan. 13 to Jan. 19 from the previous week, but the growth between weeks has slowed. For the two weeks before, emergency room visits for flu-like illnesses grew 69 percent.
Despite the seeming slowdown in the state's largest population center, the flu is still spreading "and we simply don't know if it has peaked yet," said State Health Commissioner William C. VanNess II.
The death toll has now reached 40, up from 27 last week. Of those, 33 were people over age 65 and 38 had underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma and renal disease.
This flu season is "a bad one for the elderly," Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last week.
Marion County is maintaining its newly implemented policy of prohibiting those with flu-like symptoms from visiting hospital patients. The restrictions were put in place on Friday and will stay in effect until officials determine it's no longer needed.
The county health department offers low-cost flu shots at its district health offices. Adult flu shots cost $15, children ages 2 to 18 can get one for $10 and infants under the age of 2 are free.
This season's flu vaccine is about 62 percent effective, according to the CDC, and health officials stress that it is still the best protection from flu.
"While everyone should get their flu vaccine, individuals with underlying medical conditions are clearly at high risk this season and absolutely need to be vaccinated," said VanNess.