The number of flu cases being treated this season by Bartholomew County doctors and nurses is typical, but medical specialists are seeing a greater number of people who are eager to get flu vaccinations.
Fortunately, they still have options. Those include the Bartholomew County Health Department, pharmacies and in-store health clinics at places such as Kroger, Walgreens and CVS.
People making flu-shot inquiries are advised to start by calling their family physicians to see if they have flu vaccine available.
Dr. Brian Niedbalski, Bartholomew County health officer and a physician at Doctors Park Family Medicine, said January through early March is when flu season tends to be at its peak, so more cases could appear then.
Doctors Park had flu clinics in September, October and November but had doses of the vaccine remaining afterward. Those were sold to other practices that needed them and no more were ordered, Niedbalski said. Patients coming to Doctors Park asking for flu shots are having to go
Niedbalski believes that people were more apt to get flu vaccines when the H1N1 and swine flu viruses were grabbing headlines.
The Bartholomew County Health Department also has experienced relatively few flu cases but also is fielding more inquiries about availability of the vaccinations, said Carla Wolff, assistant director of the nursing division at the Bartholomew County Health Department.
Fortunately, the health department still has a good supply of flu shots for adults and children.
People should call and schedule an appointment, Wolff said, because during the holidays staffing sometimes is reduced because of vacations. People who walk in without an appointment might have to wait.
Wolff also reminded people that the flu shots they have are for the respiratory flu, not an intestinal flu virus.
The Indiana State Department of Health reports that one personin the state has died from the flu so far during this flu season. Also, the percentage of patients treated at emergency departments statewide for an influenza-like illness was a little more than 2 percent, according to its surveillance survey. That number was higher than the past two years, but the same as the 2009-10 flu season.
The number of people turning to the emergency department at Columbus Regional Hospital for treatment of flu-like symptoms has been negligible, said Paige Harden, hospital spokeswoman.
“If a patient, however, has flu-like symptoms, the doctor can order a flu shot for the patient,” she said.
CRH offers a flu shot to all inpatients 6 months old and older, Harden said, and began offering the vaccine to inpatients in the middle of September. The hospital starts offering the vaccine as soon as it is available and offers it through March 31. Patients can decline the vaccine.
The hospital made the flu vaccine mandatory for employees this year for the first time, Harden added. However, there are exceptions for employees who have medical or religious reasons to decline.
“We are ethically obligated to take every precaution to prevent the spread of influenza and to keep our patients, workforce and others safe from acquiring the flu virus in a health care setting,” said Jim Bickel, CRH’s president and chief executive officer. “People come to us with the expectation of getting well, and we want to give them that assurance.”