Influenza death toll in Indiana reaches 70

Two more deaths reported this week brings the influenza death toll in Indiana to 70 and officials are urging citizens to get vaccinated and take every precaution to stay healthy.

The Indiana State Department of Health reported Thursday that 70 influenza-related deaths had occurred thus far this year. Five of the deaths were accounted for in people 18 years old and younger and 64 of the deaths occurred in individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer and cardiac diseases.

Health officials warned the public about the importance of getting vaccinated annually and keeping good hygiene habits in order to stay healthy. State health Commissioner William VanNess said following the "Three C's" will help the public prevent the contraction of the flu. The Three C's are clean, cover and contain, reminding the public to keep good hygiene, cover their mouth and nose when sneezing and to stay home if they are already infected with the flu.

"Your best defense at this point is to continue to be diligent with hand washing." VanNess said. "Severe flu seasons, such as this one, demonstrate the importance of getting vaccinated each and every year and as early in the season as possible."

Health officials warn the public to stay indoors if they feel flu symptoms, which include cough, fever, sore throat and body aches. The method of prevention recommended is receiving the influenza vaccine annually, before flu season begins in October.

The influenza vaccination is available for anyone over 6 months, although it is less effective for those over 65 years old. Those with the highest risk of infection are those that are pregnant, have chronic diseases, are a young child or over 65 years old and above.

"Although we are nearing the end of flu season, it's not over yet and there's still a very real risk of becoming ill with influenza," VanNess said.