Hospital systems in Indiana are enacting visitor restrictions in response to high flu-like illness activity – which can include flu, COVID-19 and RSV.
Data from the Indiana Department of Health suggests this is the earliest start to high flu-like illnesses in the state since at least 2011.
IU Health and Community Health Network are launching visitor restrictions for more than a dozen hospitals in Indiana. Deaconess, a hospital system covering most of southwestern Indiana, enacted visitor restrictions on Nov. 23.
IDOH has recorded 11 flu deaths this season, with seven added last week. In fact, just from the previous week of data, there was a 54 percent increase statewide in flu-like illness reports from emergency rooms and urgent cares.
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The state health department breaks up those in 10 emergency preparedness districts.
Districts 8 and 9 have the highest percentage of emergency room and urgent care flu-like illness reports. District 9 covers southeastern Indiana – Harrison, Floyd, Clark, Scott, Jennings, Jefferson, Switzerland, Ohio, Ripley, Dearborn, Decatur and Franklin counties. District 8 covers south central Indiana – Monroe, Brown, Bartholomew, Jackson, Washington, Lawrence and Orange counties.
More than 16 percent of visits in District 9 were for flu-like illnesses, and the district saw a more than 80 percent jump from the previous week. District 8 reported more than 9 percent, with a more than 70 percent jump from the previous week.
Districts in northern Indiana – Districts 2 and 3 – aren’t yet seeing the same kind of spread central and southern Indiana are experiencing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 75 percent of sampled flu viruses in the U.S. are influenza A, h3n2. Epidemiologists say that particular strain is “wicked and traditionally it’s more likely to put you in the hospital or to cause death.”
It was the dominant strain during the 2017-18 flu season. IDOH reported 336 flu deaths that season.
But experts say this year’s flu vaccine is highly effective against this season’s virus, though they do warn it can be evasive if it’s allowed to spread and there isn’t high vaccine uptake.