Flu season has arrived in Iowa a bit early, but the influenza isn’t the only germ going around.
Dr. Patty Quinlisk, the state’s chief medical officer, says plenty of other viruses and bacteria flourish in the cold, dry winter months.
As health officials conduct tests to track influenza, Dr. Quinlisk says they often pick up other viruses.
“The thing to remember about those viruses is while they can make you feel pretty sick, they’re not the viruses that can typically put you in the hospital or kill you like influenza does,” Quinslik says. “That’s why we’re so concerned about doing good surveillance for influenza and why we are really encouraging people to get the flu shot.”
She says studies suggest that for some reason, getting the flu shot may also help protect against other viruses by keeping people healthier.
Quinlisk says cold, dry air can make the nose and throat more vulnerable to a range of viruses, not just influenza.
“We also know that in the wintertime, we tend to be closer to other people physically because we shut the windows, because it’s cold outside and we’re around people more,” Quinlisk says. “We also have our family gatherings for the holidays and often when people travel and have large groups of people get together these viruses just spread more easily.”
Besides getting a flu shot, Quinlisk says the steps to prevent illness are the same regardless of the type of bug. She recommends frequent hand-washing and staying home if you’re sick.