A lot of Iowans are sick with the flu right now. In fact, the Iowa Department of Public Health says flu activity has reached a "widespread level" and it’s expected to continue for several weeks. State epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says the percentage of school absences due to illness has nearly doubled since December.
Quinlisk says children tend to be the major transmitter of influenza. "So, we certainly do watch how many children are out of school with the flu as an indicator of how bad it is in that community," Quinlisk said. This year, health officials are noticing a lot of people getting the flu who usually don’t get sick.
"Typically, we’ll see the very young and the very old get the sickest," Quinlisk says, "and we’ll not see as much in young adults, in particular. But this year, we’re finding it’s hitting everybody in every age group and pretty equally." Quinlisk says the reason for the widespread flu is simple. In most year, there’s just one strain of influenza.
This year, there’s three. "Two A’s and a B," Quinlisk says, "and that’s probably why it’s hitting everybody. If you don’t get hit with one, you’re going to get the other one." Quinlisk says it’s not too late to get a flu shot. A vaccination now can provide protection for the remainder of the flu season, which can last as late as May.