Influenza is presenting a triple-threat to Iowans this winter. Flu season usually peaks in late January or early February and we’re seeing a slow start this year due to the warm weather we had.
Dr. Patty Quinlisk, medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, says three strains of flu have already appeared in the state, something that’s out of the ordinary. “The typical year would be to see one strain of flu in the early part of the season and maybe a second strain show up at the end of the season,” Dr. Quinlisk says.
“To have all three strains coming around at the same time at the beginning of the season is pretty unusual.” Statewide and national surveillance reports shows flu case numbers in Iowa and across the country are still fairly low.
“We’re a little bit slow this year,” Quinlisk says. “I would guess, since we’re getting towards the end of January, we’ll probably peak towards the end of February. The good news about that is, you still have time to go in and get your flu shot.”
While that may sound reassuring, the flu season is only just beginning and now, it may stretch well into April. She says there’s another looming threat with all three strains already appearing in Iowa. “One strain of flu does not give you immunity to the other strains, which is one of the reasons you have to get a different flu shot every year,” Quinlisk says.
“What that means is, if you don’t get the flu vaccine, even if you get the flu once, you’re still susceptible to the other two flus. You could actually get sick with the flu three times this year if you don’t get vaccinated.” She says all three strains of flu identified in Iowa are covered by the flu vaccine, adding, getting that shot is the single most important thing people can do to protect themselves and their loved ones.
The C.D.C. recommends everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccine. The flu is among the top 10 causes of death in Iowa.