There are now 60 confirmed cases of H1N1 flu in Iowa. However, no one in Iowa has died from this new virus and public health agencies soon will start tracking this new virus as a normal strain of the flu.
State health officials like Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the state epidemiologist, are standing behind their decision to issue a public health disaster declaration three weeks ago after the first case was identified in Iowa.
"People need to understand that when this virus started, we were looking at what was happening in places like Mexico. We were seeing relatively serious disease. We were seeing hospitalizations," Quinlisk says. "This was a brand new virus. We’d never seen it before. We did not know how it was going to act in Iowa, therefore we wanted to make sure we did everything we could to prepare for basically having a bad strain of flu come to Iowa."
State health officials soon will stop regularly announcing how many cases of H1N1 flu have been diagnosed and, instead, make public announcements if patients seem to be getting more severely sick — and whether there appear to be clusters of cases.
"Now we got lucky and it turned out that this strain of the flu is not that bad. But had it turned out to be bad, we wanted to make sure that we had done everything we needed to do to get ready," Quinlisk says. "Now that we find that out some of those things were not necessary, we’re pulling back. But I’d much rather at this point say, ‘We did things that we probably didn’t need to do,’ than be at this point saying, ‘Gee, there were things we should have done and we didn’t do and now people are getting sick because we didn’t do them."
Public health officials say because a disaster declaration was issued three weeks ago, they were able to immediately distribute anti-viral medications from the state’s stockpile to areas where cases were being diagnosed.
Of the 60 confirmed cases of H1N1 flu, 51 are Marshall County residents. Three live in neighboring Tama County. Two are in Polk County and two more are in Hardin County. One case has been identified in Story county and another case was diagnosed in southeast Iowa’s Des Moines County.