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STATEWIDE — As flu cases continue to rise across the state, one Hoosier doctor has some suggestions on how to stay safe.

Recent statistics show that 64 Hoosiers have died of flu-related illness so far this year, with thousands more falling ill.  These numbers could be even higher now, as the holidays have delayed some reports.

Dr. Ethan Charles Blocher-Smith, Outpatient Family Medicine Physician with IU Health in Fishers, says these numbers are significantly higher than they were at this time last year.  He attributes this spike to various causes, including a more dangerous strain of the flu.

However, Dr. Blocher-Smith urges you to get this year’s vaccine.  He says getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect yourself, though he notes that it will take your body about two weeks to build an immunity after getting the vaccine.

Other ways to stay safe include washing your hands, cleaning surfaces, staying home if you are sick, wearing a mask, and seeing a medical professional if sick to possibly access an anti-viral treatment.

Unfortunately, some anti-viral treatments are not as readily available as they have been in the past.  So, the shortage of medications like Tamiflu makes seeing a doctor even more important if you feel you might have the flu.

And, if you have respiratory illnesses, are pregnant, smoke, or are above the age of 65 – among other health concerns – you are at a higher risk of exhibiting serious symptoms.  If you are in this group and feel sick, you should seek medical care as quickly as possible.

Currently, the three Indiana counties showing the highest numbers of flu-related deaths are Clark, Lake, and Marion counties.

You can check out the statistics and learn more here.  Numbers are updated on Fridays.