FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Flu cases continue to increase in Fort Wayne in Allen County.

Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Gutwein told WANE 15 that positive flu cases nearly doubled this week compared to the previous week.

WANE 15 previously reported that flu season came a month early, as it usually starts around Christmas, according to the Allen County Health Department.

Dr. Gutwein said on Tuesday that a result of the early season has been a low supply of Tamiflu to fight influenza.

“I think it probably caught the pharmacies a little off guard because they might not have been prepared quite as early. They get their shipments in on a timely basis, and with the flu season coming a little bit earlier, Tamiflu, which is used to help fight the flu, has been in shorter supply this year and is really a little bit more difficult to get now,” Dr, Gutwein said.

Flu season typically runs from October until April or May. So far this flu season there have been 11 flu-related deaths in the entire state of Indiana. Seven of them have come in the past week.

Along with the flu surging, the positive COVID cases in Allen County jumped from 264 positive cases the week of November 23 to 701 positive cases the week of December 6.

Dr. Gutwein said that’s just the normal ups and downs of Coronavirus, and he doesn’t expect there to be a similar COVID surge to what happened in 2021 and 2020.

He also believes RSV will soon slow down and influenza will completely take over.

“There’s talk about having like a ‘tripledemic’ where you get RSV and flu and COVID, most people get one or the other. They don’t typically get all three of them. Certainly you can get two, but that’s very rare and most people will get one or the other, and most of the time the viruses kind of compete with each other so that one of them will win out and that’ll be the predominant virus that’s running around,” he explained.

That being said, Dr. Gutwein knows that hospitalizations are up due to the flu, and that there have been lots of people with the flu or flu-like symptoms filling up hospitals, clinics, and doctors offices.

The health commissioner said the good news is that most cases are outpatient, but the high volume of visitors is putting a strain on healthcare facilities.

Parkview Health is one of them. In a statement, a spokesperson told WANE 15:

At Parkview Health, we are currently seeing influenza cases rise earlier than we would see in a typical flu season, especially among school-age children.

Cases of COVID-19 aren’t rising but remain consistent. We are seeing a small number of patients present with both COVID and influenza, which often results in hospitalization.

In addition to COVID and influenza, we are seeing a high rate of group A streptococcus, or group A strep, spreading through our community. For most patients, this results in strep throat or sinusitis, but group A strep can lead to serious complications if not properly treated.

At this time, we have not implemented visitor restrictions or universal masking. We will continue to monitor activity and make changes to our policies as needed.

Vaccination continues to be the best way to prevent severe cases of COVID-19 and influenza. The bivalent COVID-19 booster and flu vaccine are both highly recommended, especially as we head into the holiday season. You can also help slow the spread of illness by washing your hands frequently and staying home if you are sick.

At this time, Lutheran Health Network won’t be making any changes to their current policies either:

“Lutheran Health Network hospitals, like much of Indiana, have seen increases in respiratory illnesses like COVID, flu and RSV over the past few weeks. A universal masking policy remains in place for all staff and visitors to our facilities. No changes have been made to our visitation policies at this time, but any updates or changes to visitor policies will be reflected on Lutheran Health Network and hospital websites. We encourage everyone to continue using the mitigation efforts we learned and practiced through the pandemic, including staying home when sick, frequent handwashing and considering wearing a mask when out in public or in large crowds.”

December 5 through December 9 is National Influenza Vaccination Week. Dr. Gutwein is urging people to get their flu shots.

The flu vaccine will decrease hospitalizations and deaths, and decrease the severity of the illness for anyone who does get sick.

The Allen County Health Department offers places where people can get flu and COVID vaccines. Appointments can be made by calling (260) 449-7504 or by visiting their medical annex at 4813 New Haven Avenue.

In the meantime, people are encouraged to keep practicing basic hygiene to avoid getting sick.

WANE 15 check in with the major school districts in Allen County to see if they’ve seen an uptick in absences due to illness in the past several weeks. You can read their responses below.

Fort Wayne Community Schools:

“Fort Wayne Community Schools has seen an increase in illness related absences in recent weeks. Some schools have seen an absentee rate of more than 10% due to illness. There are many different illnesses causing this problem. The situation is monitored daily and district leaders have spoken with the health department. We would like to remind people to please stay home if they are sick.”     

East Allen County Schools:

“Our numbers are very similar to past years.  No major uptick in absences.”

Northwest Allen County Schools:

“We typically experience an increase in illness after holiday breaks when people are in closer proximity, traveling and eating together. This year is no exception. Northwest Allen County Schools has seen a rise in students being absent due to illness including fever, flu A and strep throat primarily, however, we are no where near reaching an unusually high number at our schools. NACS ncourages everyone to wash their hands regularly, cover coughs and sneezes and keep children home if they have symptoms of sickness as we find ourselves indoors more.”

Southwest Allen County Schools:

Southwest Allen County Schools (SACS) is seeing an increase in the number of students absent across the district when we compare the same week in 2021 and 2022. Our absentee rate is averaging approximately 100 more students out this year. Students absent at any one school, on any one day, remains under 10% and continues to fluctuate.

It is important to note, not all recorded staff and student absences necessarily mean illness. Students may miss school for a number of reasons including doctor and dental appointments. Staff may not be personally sick, but are caring for family members who are. Yet, we would be remiss to not recognize that COVID19 continues to circulate, and flu and respiratory illnesses are on the rise throughout Indiana. SACS will continue to track our absentee rates for both our students and staff, as well as encourage our community to continue to take preventative steps such as washing hands, and staying home from school and work when sick.