The flu is one of the top ten causes of death for Iowans and last winter, several young people in the state were killed by severe cases of the flu. Alicia Fry, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control, is urging Iowans to get their flu shots now, as most clinics and drug stores already have them in stock.
Fry says it’s tough to know how bad a flu season lies ahead. “The only thing predictable about influenza is that it’s unpredictable,” Fry says. “We can start having influenza illnesses as early as November. Really, now is the perfect time to get your influenza vaccine. It takes a couple of weeks until you have the best immune response to the vaccine.”
The CDC recommends a state vaccinate at least 50-percent of its population for influenza. In 2014, Iowa had 50.4 percent vaccinated for the flu, so it met the recommendation, but just barely. The flu often takes a serious toll in Iowa every fall and winter. “Most people will feel terrible and have muscle aches and feel like a truck ran them over, but they might not need to go and seek medical care,” she says, “however, every year we have hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations due to influenza and we have thousands of deaths.”
Fry recommends the vaccine for everyone who is at least six months old. The CDC urges Iowans to “Take 3” actions to prevent the flu. One, is fighting the flu with a vaccine. Two, is to take preventative actions daily to reduce spreading germs, like frequent hand washing, and three, use antiviral medicines to treat the flu, if prescribed.