Doctor’s offices and health clinics across Iowa are packed with people sneezing, hacking and sniffling as flu season is now at its worst. Dr. Ann Garvey, Iowa’s deputy state epidemiologist, says late February and early March are when it seems like just about everybody’s sick.

“There’s quite a bit of flu activity,” Dr. Garvey says. “We’re continuing to see all three strains, the H3N2, the 2009 H1N1 that we saw last year, and Influenza B. The good thing is, all three of these strains are covered in this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine. They’re all a good match.” Garvey says the flu is now classified as “widespread” in Iowa as it’s being reported all over the state.

“We’re encouraging people to get vaccinated if they haven’t gotten vaccinated yet,” Garvey says. “If you are sick, make sure you’re staying home to prevent spreading illnesses to others. Wash your hands, it helps with influenza and other respiratory viruses or other illnesses that are going around and continue to cover your coughs and sneezes.” Flu symptoms can include: fever, body aches, headaches and coughing. She says we’re essentially on track with last year’s flu season.

“It’s really hard to compare from year to year because every flu season is a bit different,” Garvey says. “These are the highest levels we’ve seen yet this year and we do think that we’re nearing our peak, if not at our peak for the season.” Many Iowans may think it’s too late to get a flu shot now or that they’re all gone.

“If you haven’t got your vaccine, we would still encourage you to get vaccinated,” Garvey says. “We are still seeing activity.” Last year’s flu season was a bit different as it was classified as a “worldwide pandemic” due to H1N1.

Due to that classification, flu death numbers were reported statewide last year, but not this year. Still, state health officials say about 1,000 Iowans die every year from influenza and pneumonia combined.