State health officials say flu season has arrived. Doctor Patricia Quinlisk is Medical Director for the Iowa Department of Public Health. “We’ve had several cases of flu reported to us recently, a couple this week, so if you’ve put off getting the flu shot, go get it now,” Quinlisk says.
Three cases of seasonal influenza have been identified in eastern and central Iowa in the last two months and all were type A. “This is the strain that typically causes more serious illness and is more likely to put you in a hospital,” Quinlisk says. “So, right now, the indication is it could be a pretty severe flu year.”
Influenza is not a “reportable disease” in Iowa, so hospitals and clinics are not required to notify the state health department each time a patient tests positive for influenza. “That means, even though we’ve got three cases confirmed now, I believe there’s probably a lot more flu going around already in our communities,” Quinlisk says.
Aside from getting the flu vaccine, Quinlisk says Iowan can take other steps to prevent the spread of the illness. The steps, identified as “the 3-Cs,” involve covering your coughs and sneezes, cleaning your hands frequently, and containing germs by staying home when ill.
The flu shot recommended for nearly everyone, Quinlisk says, but some need it more than others. “All Iowans over six months of age should get the flu shot. Then, there are some people who are at higher risk of getting seriously ill who especially need to make sure they get it. That would be the elderly or the very young, people with heart or lung problems, and women who are pregnant,” Quinlisk says.
The three Iowans recently identified with type-A influenza did not require hospitalization and are recovering, according to Quinlisk. The cases were in central and eastern Iowa.