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Flu season hitting unlikely targets

Pregnant women, young adults feeling strain’s effects

Widespread flu is dangerously afflicting the most unusual of suspects this year:

Pregnant women and otherwise healthy adults.

That’s according to public health officials, who are reporting that most flu illnesses can be blamed on an H1N1 strain that was also responsible for the 2009 flu pandemic.

Like that year, young and middle-aged adults between the ages of 20 and 55, along with pregnant women, are bearing the brunt of the most serious symptoms.

In typical flu seasons, senior citizens and children have been most at risk.

“These people are those who’ve never been sick and never had problems, and now they get sick and get sick quickly,” said Dr. Deborah McMahan, commissioner of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health.

“Some people are ending up on ventilators,” she added.

McMahan and officials with Parkview Health and Lutheran Health Network are urging anyone older than 6 months to get vaccinated for the flu.

Flu season is expected to continue for several more weeks, and a vaccination will still work, McMahan said.

More than 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations nationwide are people ages 18 to 64, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Locally, doctors with Parkview and Lutheran are seeing a number of younger people coming into their hospitals with the flu.

“The ones who are getting sick enough to be hospitalized are young and otherwise healthy adults,” said Dr. Scott Stienecker, medical director, infection prevention, with Parkview Health.

“We have patients in our ICU being treated for severe flu who have no other risk factors other than not having gotten a flu shot,” he continued in a statement.

There have been 19 flu-related deaths in the state this year so far, the majority of them between the ages of 25 and 64.

There has been one Allen County death that might be flu-related, McMahan said, though nothing has been determined definitively.

She also urged anyone who develops a fever of 100, 101 or 102 degrees to consult a doctor immediately, no matter what.

“That means you’re immune system is really fighting hard against something,” she said. “It’s hard to make decisions by yourself, don’t try to tough it out.”

Other symptoms could include dry cough, fatigue or muscle aches.

Flu can be treated with anti-viral medications if caught early, according to health officials.

And while no restrictions have been placed on visitors to area hospitals, people should still take precautions, health officials said.

“Patients in need of care for all conditions are very susceptible to coming down with this nasty bug,” said Cheryl Rieves, a registered nurse and chief nursing officer at St. Joseph Hospital in a statement.

“It’s difficult to stay away when family and friends are hospitalized, but we all need to do what we can to prevent the spread of this communicable disease.”

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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