How COVID-19 deaths compare to flu-related deaths in Indiana

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Flu virus (Photo courtesy of CNN)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Flu deaths in Indiana have risen to 116 as the state deals with an increasing number of COVID-19 deaths.

As of Friday, 85 of Indiana’s 92 counties have reported cases of novel coronavirus COVID-19. So far, there have been 3,437 reported positive cases and 102 deaths.

In comparison, the Indiana State Department of Health reported 116 influenza-related deaths as of March 29.

Flu-related deaths vs COVID-19 deaths in Indiana as of March 29 (data//Indiana State Department of Health)

The Indiana State Department of Health noted that influenza-associated deaths are reportable if either laboratory-confirmed or listed as the cause of death on the death certificate. However, influenza testing at the ISDH Laboratory has been suspended until further notice due to the COVID-19 response.

The department also noted that the COVID-19 outbreak may affect healthcare-seeking behavior, which in turn would impact Indiana’s sentinel and syndromic ILI data.

The COVID-19 pandemic comes as health officials say the U.S. is on track for one of the worst flu seasons in decades. The CDC says the percent of deaths associated with pneumonia and influenza is above the epidemic threshold. The increase is due to an increase in pneumonia deaths rather than influenza deaths and may be associated with COVID-19.

Nationally, laboratory-confirmed flu activity continues to decrease sharply and is now low.

As of March 28, the CDC estimates that there have been between 24,000-63,000 influenza-related deaths across the country dating back to October 1, compared to 5,443 COVID-19 deaths reported since January 21.

If you’re sick with even mild flu symptoms, health officials are asking that you stay away from emergency rooms.

The CDC says the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

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