The Iowa Department of Public Health’s website shows influenza activity in the state has been low, but it’s starting to increase. Public health and hospital officials are urging Iowans to get flu shots.

Nola Aigner-Davis of the Polk County Public Health Department says Iowa’s medical system is under stress due to the pandemic. “Our hospitals are full. Our healthcare staff are tired, burned out both physically and mentally,” she says. “We cannot do this to our community, so that is why it’s so incredibly important for our community to get vaccinated for the flu.”

Aigner Davis says the rise in the Covid patient count in Iowa hospitals comes as Iowans who waited to seek care for a serious illness are now hospitalized, too.

“What I mean by that is they waited awhile, they may have delayed care, delayed medications because of the virus,” she says. “The sicker are getting sicker, so it’s important that you take all of the prevention steps to take care of you that is get a flu shot, get a Covid-19 shot.”

The flu shot is available to anyone who is six months or older. According to Iowa Department of Public Health data for August, 16 schools reported at least 10% of students were absent due to the flu. So far this month, tests at the State Hygienic Lab have confirmed five Iowans have tested positive for the flu. One of them was under the age of five.

(By Natalie Krebs, Iowa Public Radio, Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson also contributed to the story.)