Flu season hitting St. Joe County harder than normal

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. --- Flu season is hitting St. Joe County a bit harder this year.

“We’re experiencing high and very high activity of influenza,” says Cassy White, the Director of Health Equity, Epidemiology, and Data at the Saint Joe County Department of Health.

It’s hitting four times harder to be exact.

“We’re reporting a four-fold increase in seasonal flu activity compared to this same time period last year,” White says.

Local health clinics are seeing an increase in patients coming in with flu-like symptoms and most that are tested are coming back positive, the most in past years. It’s a trend even going beyond St. Joe County.

“Even comparatively, we’re seeing that four-fold increase in what the state department of health; they have an influenza-like dashboard, that’s inclusive of influenza and RSV, and so we’re seeing that same increase in comparison of years past as well,” says White.

It’s part of the reason local clinics are seeing fuller waiting rooms and longer wait times to see patients, because the only way to be diagnosed with the flu is to go get tested.

“We have at-home Covid tests readily available to purchase, even here at the health department we have them available for community members, but we don’t have anything of that when it comes to influenza,” White says.

The sudden increase in cases can be explained by Covid restrictions becoming a thing of the past, on top of the approaching winter months.

“For the last three years we’ve had mask mandates and we’ve had different measures in place to protect us from respiratory illnesses that, a lot of those mandates aren’t in place anymore,” suggests White. “Part of it too is because you’re kind of forced to go inside here in northern Indiana, so you aren’t able to be outside with your activities, especially going into the holidays.”

However, the good news is that the flu vaccine is especially effective for the strain of Influenza hitting St. Joe County, Influenza A.

“The influenza vaccine is a good match for the strand of influenza that is going around at least in our community, which is predominantly influenza A,” White says.

Flu vaccine is available at the St. Joseph County Department of Health Immunization South Bend clinic (227 W. Jefferson Blvd., 9th floor, South Bend, IN 46601) on Monday-Friday, 8:00 am -12:00 pm and 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm and at the Mishawaka clinic (219 Lincolnway W, Mishawaka, IN 46544) Monday-Thursday, 8:00 am -12:00 pm and 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

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