The Iowa Department of Public Health is reporting flu activity in the state has started early this season and is increasing rapidly.
Doctor Patricia Quinlisk is the agency’s medical director. “Over the last week or so, our numbers of people being hospitalized, the number of people with confirmed flu and the number of schools having outbreaks – have all gone up significantly,” Quinlisk said. “We want people to be aware of that and if they’ve put off getting their flu shot, to go in and get it really quickly.”
Of the 21 hospitals that report such information to state health officials, there have been 49 hospitalizations due to the flu so far this year. That compares to only eight last year at this time. There have been 378 confirmed cases of influenza, compared to only 10 last year.
“Actually, Iowa’s (flu activity) is not increasing as fast as some other states. There are some southern states, especially, that have really sort of exploded with the flu,” Quinlisk said. “In Iowa, we are increasing pretty fast, but not quite what (southern states) are doing.”
So far this school year, 23 Iowa schools have reported more than 10% of their student body out sick on the same day – compared to only eight last year at this time.
Quinlisk is encouraging anyone with flu symptoms to stay away from school or work because the virus spreads so easily. “The flu travels through the air, so all you really need to have is somebody within about three to six feet from you coughing and you can catch it,” Quinlisk said. “So, you can imagine a kid at a school or a coworker who never covers their mouth when they cough or sneeze…you can spread it to a lot of people during the day.”
Quinlisk notes all three strains of the seasonal flu have been confirmed in Iowa this season, and all are covered by the vaccine. She encourages all people over six months of age to get a flu shot each year.