The medical director at the Iowa Department of Public Health says tests at the State Hygienic Laboratory have confirmed three cases of flu in the state.
Doctor Patty Quinlisk says the confirmed cases are in Henry, Johnson and Polk counties. “When we see three cases all at once happening in three different places, it means that there’s probably a bit already going around in our communities. And it just helps to remind all of us that we need to go in and get our flu shots pretty quickly, so that we can be protected in case we come across the flu virus in the next couple of weeks,” Quinlisk says.
She says the sooner you get the vaccine the quicker you are protected. “As soon as you get vaccinated your immune system will start to respond to it — so you will start making some protection immediately,” according to Quinlisk. “Probably to get full protection, it may take a week to two weeks, depending on your immune system and how fast you respond and how many times you’ve been vaccinated in the past, and things like that.”
Quinlisk says the tests from the early flu cases are another reason you’ll want to be protected. “The virus that we’ve seen in these three cases is an influenza ‘A.’ And the reason why that is important for us to know is that when we see an ‘A’ strain, usually that means people tend to get sicker, they are sick longer and they are more likely to go on to complications than if they are exposed to a ‘B’ type strain,” Quinlisk explains. “Unfortunately that may mean we are going to have a more serious flu season than we’ve had in some of our past years.”
While people have been watching the Ebola outbreak unfold, Dr. Quinlisk says everyone needs to focus on what’s happening here and now. “You know, Ebola is a very, very, serious scary disease and certainly I understand why people are concerned about it. But the thing to remember is we do not have any Ebola in Iowa, and to be honest, it would unlikely for us to get anybody with Ebola in Iowa — not impossible — but unlikely,” Quinlisk says.
The flu is here every year and Quinlisk says there’s no disputing that it poses a health risk. “We know that tens of thousands — if not hundreds of thousands of Iowans — are going to get sick from the flu. And we know probably somewhere around a thousand people are going to die from the flu and some of its complications like pneumonia. That we know, so that’s a known risk and know types of numbers,” Quinlisk says. “But, the good news is there’s a vaccine, there’s something we can do about the flu.”
She says if you don’t like shots, some people can get the flu vaccine in a mist. Either way, she says you should get vaccinated. “Let’s do what we can about the risks we do know will come and we can do something about, and let’s just hope that Ebola does not come to Iowa, “Quinlisk says.
Quinlisk says you should contact your health care provider or local health department to find out where the vaccine is available in your community or use the Flu Vaccine Finder at www.flu.gov.