Flu season is off to an early start - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Flu season is off to an early start

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INDIANAPOLIS -

A health alert - flu season is off to its earliest start in nearly 10 years, and health officials say it could be a bad one.

The state health department reports sporadic flu cases showing up in Indiana. That could change as we get further into flu season, which may peak earlier this year. 

When they start to see a large number of cases early, it's an indicator that the season will be rough.  Forty-eight states have already reported cases of "influenza-like illnesses" - the earliest we've seen this many cases since 2003.

The Centers for Disease Control says suspected flu cases in some states - especially southern states - have already reached the highest reporting level possible.

Melissa McMasters of the Marion County Public Health Department said the season is unpredictable, but, "I think the fact that they're seeing so much disease earlier in other parts of the country - they're just trying to get people geared up for what could be a bad flu season."

The good news this year is that the viruses match the vaccine, so it's not too late to get a shot now be protected.

There's nothing like unseasonable temperatures to make people forget they're heading into flu season. "You just have to dress right, said Jared Ditaway on Monument Circle Monday. "I see people with shorts and flip flops today, and you're asking for it if you're doing that."

But according to health experts, the outdoor temperature has nothing to do with the flu or how prevalent it has been.

"It's a respiratory virus and weather doesn't really have that much effect, although obviously when it gets colder, people tend to congregate inside where germs spread easier," explained McMasters.

"Anyone can get it and anyone can spread it," explained Doctor Pam Pantones with the Indiana Department of Health. Ditaway said he's not trying to be that anyone. "It knocks you out. Just knocks you out," said Ditaway.

He said he hopes that won't happen this year. "I don't have the time to be in the bed for a week," Ditaway added.

Health Experts said hand washing also goes a long way in preventing the spread of germs that cause the flu.

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