The Iowa Department of Public Health reported four new flu deaths today.
Department Medical Director Patricia Quinlisk says the flu victims are an elderly female and older adult female in southeast Iowa; an elderly female in northeast Iowa; and an elderly male in northwest Iowa. Doctor Quinlisk says the increase in flu deaths is “very concerning.”
A total of six flu-related deaths have been reported in the state since October, and the average age of those who have died is 86.
“Right now the ones that have been reported to us are elderly — now in other parts of the country they’ve had deaths in younger people — but right now in Iowa it’s the older people,” according to Doctor Quinlisk. “And this is a strain of the flu that causes pretty serious flu and does tend to hit everybody.” Three individuals who died had underlying conditions or contributing factors reported. Doctor Quinlisk says it’s not too late to get a flu shot to protect yourself.
“If you’ve not gotten your flu shot yet, I would tell right now go in and get it. You’ll actually start getting protection within a day or two — it may take a week to two weeks to get full protection — but you start getting some protection pretty fast.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends anyone over six months of age receive a flu vaccination.
Quinlisk says there is something you can do if you think you are coming down with the flu.
“Call your health care provider right away. You can be put on some anti-viral medication that can reduce your risk of getting seriously ill, even being hospitalized or dying, if that happens quickly within the first day or so of symptoms,” she says. Quinlisk says the very young, very old and those with weakened immune systems are especially susceptible to the flu. She says there is a second line of protection for them once they have the flu shot.
“Making sure everybody around them has gotten their flu shot. And if you are ill with any symptoms at all, that is not the moment to go visit grandma at the long term care or go and see your neighbor’s new baby,” Quinlisk explains. “First they get the flu shot, the second is keeping sick people away from them.”
The flu is a respiratory illness caused by viruses. It comes on suddenly and symptoms may include fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches. Illness typically lasts two to seven days, and often puts healthy people in bed for days.