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Flu bug active locally; state deaths reach 56

– Influenza continues to be widespread and people should still get flu shots, officials with the State Department of Health said Friday.

There have been 56 deaths throughout the state because of the flu or flu complications this season, which began in December. Four of those victims were younger than 18, the state health department said.

In Allen County, eight people have died from the flu, according to the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health.

“Tragically, we are continuing to lose lives due to flu-related illnesses in the state,” state Health Commissioner William VanNess said in a prepared statement. “We still have months left in this flu season. These deaths and the cases of flu we are seeing around the state are a reminder that flu can be serious and every one of us has a responsibility to take steps to prevent its spread.”

In Allen County, the reported number of flu cases may be starting to wane, local health department spokesman Jon Silcox said, but that shouldn’t prevent anyone from getting a flu shot.

“Getting flu shots is always recommended,” he said.

But that is sometimes easier said than done.

While flu cases seemingly skyrocketed this season, supplies of flu vaccines at many drugstores have vanished at times. Employees at several drugstores reported last month that their businesses had little or supplies had been exhausted.

Friday, several Walgreens stores reported a few doses of the flu vaccine remained while an employee at a southwest-side CVS said her store had a fair amount of doses left.

The local health department is still offering the vaccine for children only, Silcox said, and Super Shot clinics still have supplies remaining at various locations, a Super Shot representative said.

State and local health officials said everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine, including pregnant women, people who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities and people 65 and older.

People who should not get vaccinated – or should consult a physician before being vaccinated – include people who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs, a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination and people who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever.

Health officials also recommend basic steps to prevent the spread of the flu, such as thorough and frequent hand-washing, covering your cough with a tissue or your sleeve and staying home when you are sick.

Symptoms of influenza include high fever, headache, fatigue, cough, muscle aches and sore throat, health officials said.