Flu activity in Indiana is low, but doctor warns it will be back

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new report from the state health department says influenza cases in Indiana have been minimal, with just five flu deaths so far this season.

Additional data shows the number of patients affected is at approximately half the level compared to previous years. 

However, experts say don’t discount influenza. It will be back. 

“Viruses are strange and we don’t really understand how they play in the same sandbox together,” Dr. Amy Beth Kressel, infectious disease specialist at Eskenazi Health, told News 8. “I do think that the lack of travel, the quiet season in the southern hemisphere, wearing masks and social distancing all had an impact on influenza, but I personally don’t think that’s the whole story.”

Kressel says sometimes viruses just outcompete one another. When the coronavirus came to Indiana in March 2020, the flu essentially disappeared. She says this also happened during 2009’s H1N1 epidemic. Nearly all types of other respiratory viruses and illnesses went away. 

“It may just be COVID itself. It’s so overwhelming that it’s just interacting with other viruses in ways we don’t fully understand,” she adds. ”Human beings never saw COVID before so we are all very vulnerable and it just may mean one is more amenable to (the precautions) than the other, but I also think there is more going on with influenza that we still totally don’t understand.”

News 8’s medical reporter, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Gillis, D.Ed., is a classically trained medical physiologist and biobehavioral research scientist. She has been a health, medical and science reporter for over six years. Her work has been featured in national media outlets. You can follow her on Facebook @DrMaryGillis and Instagram @reportergillis.