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Aging struck hard by flu

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The flu death count in Indiana has risen by three in the past week to 43 victims, state health officials said Tuesday.

The overwhelming majority of fatal cases have been among patients 65 years old and up.

Carla Wolff, head of nursing at the Bartholomew County Health Department, said reports of flu in the Columbus area have increased slightly since early January. But Wolff said she knows of no flu deaths in Bartholomew County at this stage.

“Doctors’ offices seem to be a little bit busier than what they had been with the positive flu reports,” Wolff added. “That’s about all we’ve heard.”

Statewide, the biggest flu impact has been among elderly patients, primarily those with other health complications, state officials said.

“The overwhelming majority, 36 deaths, have occurred in people 65 years of age or older. Five deaths have occurred in individuals 18 to 64 years of age,” said Ken Severson, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Health. “Two deaths have occurred in individuals younger than 18.”

At Keepsake Village of Columbus, director of nursing Robin Alstott said the home takes special precautions during flu season.

“So far, this year, we’ve had a good year” with few cases of flu among residents, Alstott said.

Statewide, Marion County is the only county where health officers have confirmed at least five flu deaths so far. Health officials don’t report county results until a particular area sees five or more flu-related deaths.

“Flu season can last until May. We’ll continue our surveillance,” Severson said.

Wolff said the county health department continues to make appointments for people who want to get vaccinated against the flu, and she believes her agency has an adequate supply of vaccine on hand for children and adults.

Under state health regulations, all doctors, health labs and hospitals must report flu-related deaths within 72 hours.

The majority of flu victims who have died in Indiana so far this flu season have had underlying medical conditions ranging from heart disease to diabetes, asthma and renal disease, the state health department said in its most recent flu report.

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