News and Tribune

Recent Local News

January 31, 2013

Indiana’s new health commissioner faces flu epidemic in first days on the job

INDIANAPOLIS — Dr. William VanNess didn’t have to wait long before executing his duties as Indiana’s new top public health officer. 

On his first day of work two weeks ago, he found out that Gov. Mike Pence had been so busy campaigning last fall that he’d forgotten to get his annual flu vaccine. 

The governor asked if he could get a flu shot the following week. VanNess’ reply: “I said ‘No. You’re getting one tomorrow.” 

And Pence did — in front of news cameras at a press conference called by the governor to urge other Hoosiers to get vaccinated as well.

VanNess, a retired family physician and former head of a 173-bed community hospital in Anderson, doubts all the advice he’ll dole out as Indiana’s health commissioner will be followed so quickly. But he does feel a sense of urgency about the public’s health. 

In the week that Pence got his vaccine, the state health department reported 17 deaths from flu-related illnesses. As of Monday, the total number of flu deaths this season had climbed to 43 — making it the deadliest flu season in five years. 

Although the Centers for Disease Control reported Monday that there are some signs that the flu may be leveling off nationwide, VanNess said Indiana is still in the grips of a flu epidemic. So he continues to push the message: It’s not too late to get that flu vaccine. 

“True influenza is a really harsh disease,” said VanNess. “It’s a disease you do not want to get.” 

So how many Hoosiers haven’t been vaccinated against the flu? That’s a question that VanNess can’t answer.

Indiana has an electronic database of immunization records for children and adults, known as CHIRP (Children and Hoosiers Immunization Registry). 

But it’s voluntary; health care providers who administer vaccines — for the flu and a wide range of other diseases like polio, mumps or measles — aren’t required to enter that information into CHIRP. 

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Recent Local News
LOCAL MAGAZINES
Easter 2014 photos


Click on any photo to purchase it.

SPECIAL CONTENT
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow
2013 Photos of the year


Take a look at our most memorable photos from 2013.