The flu continues its rampant spread across the country and Indiana, according to a new report released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC said 43 states are now reporting widespread flu activity. A good example of how fast it can spread is Michigan. The state went from recording minimal flu activity to high activity within a week.
Indiana health officials report 36 flu-related deaths this season, 31 of those in a one-week span, according to the latest data released Friday by the Indiana State Department of Health.
Of the 36 deaths, 34 of the people were 65 years old or older.
Nursing homes, hospitals and assisted living homes are taking extra precautions.
“At every door, every entrance we have masks,” Watonda King said, director of nursing at Forum at the Crossing in Indianapolis. “If you’re coughing or sneezing, we have hand sanitation stations.”
Since October, King said nurses have been preparing for a potential flu outbreak. While no one has gotten the flu, the assisted living home is urging limited visits.
"A decrease in their immune system, they may be on certain medications that can cause them to have more susceptibility to any type of infection,” King said.
State health officials said this year’s flu-related death rate is comparable to years past. The effort is centered on prevention.
“We are sending updated information to nursing homes,” Joan Duwve said, chief medical officer for the Indiana State Department of Health. “We work closely with our health departments and they keep tabs on influenza activity on nursing homes in their counties.”
The predominant flu strain, H3N2, is partially to blame for the nationwide outbreak. That particular strain isn’t protected from this year’s vaccine.
Still, health officials are still encouraging Hoosiers who haven’t received a flu shot to get one. Duwve said strains may change throughout the season, which adds another layer of prevention.
“If you have anyone elderly living with you, or you’re visiting anyone elderly, you just want to make sure you surround them with protection, she said.”