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Friday, June 14
The Indiana Daily Student

Flu causing death in younger populations

The flu this season is causing more deaths in people ages 25 to 64 in Indiana than last year.

“At this time last year, 81 percent of deaths were in individuals 65 or older,” Shawn Richards, Indiana State Department of Health respiratory epidemiologist, said in an email. “This season, 62 percent of deaths have been in individuals

A total of 37 influenza-related deaths in Indiana have been reported for the current October to May flu season, according to the ISDH.

Seven deaths occurred in the last two weeks.

“The activity this season is similar to the 2009 pandemic, when H1N1 viruses were predominant,” Richards said. “Younger adults and people with chronic medical conditions are harder hit.”

He said last year, the dominant strain was H3, which had the most effect on children and adults 65 and older.

Every year the flu vaccine is slightly altered to match which flu strains are predominant.

“This season, 2009 H1N1 virus has been the predominant strain so far,” Richards said.

“This is the first season that the virus has circulated at such high levels since the 2009 pandemic. While the strain of influenza involved in death cases is not always reported, records indicate that eight out of 37 so far have been positive for 2009 H1N1 virus in Indiana.”

Traditional flu vaccines are trivalent, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meaning they protect against three different flu viruses.

This year quadrivalent vaccines are available, which protect against four different flu viruses.

This season’s trivalent and quadrivalent vaccines provide protection against the H1N1 strain.

“History will show that every 30 or 40 years, it’s not unusual to have a new strain,” Diana Ebling, IU Health Center medical director, said.

This year’s vaccine is effective against the most common strains, she said.

The IU Health Center’s current allotment of 6,000 vaccines, however, is almost depleted with fewer than 10 doses remaining as of Monday.

When the center runs out, people seeking vaccines will be referred to local sites offering the vaccine.

“Unfortunately only about 40 percent of the population gets vaccinated,” Richards said. “It’s not too late to get vaccinated since flu season typically lasts until May.”

— Dennis Barbosa

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