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Common respiratory illnesses on the rise, Health Commissioner urges protection

Fort Wayne (Dec. 22, 2023) – Respiratory illnesses are spreading, and the Allen County Department of Health is urging residents to protect themselves and others.

Cases of influenza (flu), COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) each have increased recently. Protection is especially important as family and friends prepare to gather for the holidays.

“The best protection against these respiratory illnesses is vaccination, and many of these are widely available in the community. Residents can check availability from providers like their family doctor, local pharmacies or, in some cases, the Allen County Department of Health,” said Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Gutwein. “Other good habits like washing your hands, covering a cough and staying away from others who are sick can also be effective at helping to stop the spread of viruses.”

Influenza, COVID-19 and RSV can result in severe disease. Vaccination for each reduces the risk of the most severe outcomes, including pneumonia, hospitalization and death.

Influenza-like illness is rising across the state, according to the Indiana Department of Health, and at least 10 Hoosiers have died. Nationally, most cases have been Influenza A (H1N1), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, and hospitalizations among all age groups have increased by 200% in the past four weeks.

Through Thursday, December 21, the Department of Health has reported 1,368 new cases of COVID-19 this month. Through the same period in November, there were 629 cases.

RSV hospitalizations also have risen sharply in recent weeks, according to the CDC.

The Department of Health urges residents to do the following to help minimize transmission of respiratory viruses:

  • - Get vaccinated. Vaccines for flu, COVID-19 and RSV are available at various locations such as primary care providers and pharmacies. To check availability, contact providers, pharmacies or the Department of Health at (260) 449-7504. Providers for flu and COVID-19 vaccines can also be found at
  • - Stay home if you’re sick. Those experiencing symptoms of respiratory illnesses should stay home from work or school, whenever possible. If treatment is needed, contact your primary health care provider.
  • - Wash hands frequently. Use soap and warm water. If they are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • - Cover coughs and sneezes. Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.