The State Health Department now says 11 people across Indiana have died from the flu so far this season. Eight of those deaths have taken place over the last two weeks, and unlike previous years, those dying are mostly younger people. “The 25-to-64 year old age group is specifically being harder hit,” said Shawn Richards, respiratory epidemiologist with the department. She says this is because the H1N1 strain, which caused the 2009 flu pandemic, is dominant so far this year. “For some reason, H1N1 does seem to affect that age group.”
St. Joseph County has been hit particularly hard, experiencing six flu deaths. No other Indiana county has reported more than one death. The health department does not report counties with fewer than five deaths for privacy reasons.
While H1N1 is the most common strain for now, Richards says that may not be the case for the entire flu season. “We have to respect the fact that it can turn at any time. We could start seeing Influenza AH3 or Influenza B circulating later in the season,” said Richards.
The flu vaccine protects against all of the most common strains of flu, including H1N1. “There is plenty of vaccine available right now, and there are different varieties, so there is no reason you should not be vaccinated right now,” Richards said.