Des Moines, Iowa — The flu season appears to be off to an early start in Iowa, as the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced testing by the State Hygienic Laboratory (SHL) has identified cases influenza circulating the state. While influenza activity remains at a low level, the identification of the virus in Iowa should serve as motivation for those who have not yet received their yearly influenza vaccination to do so now.
IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, says the most effective way to prevent influenza illness and death is the yearly flu vaccine. She say that, based on CDC estimates, an average of 300,000 Iowans gets the flu every year and together, flu and its complication of pneumonia cause an average of 1,000 deaths yearly in the Hawkeye state.
IDPH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend annual influenza vaccinations for everyone 6 months of age and older. It’s especially important to be vaccinated if you have regular contact with people more vulnerable to the complications of flu, including babies, children with asthma, and the elderly. IDPH also recommends pregnant women be vaccinated to protect themselves, and to pass on some immunity to their baby.
The flu is a serious respiratory illness caused by viruses. The flu 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. Influenza may cause severe illness or even death in people such as the very young or very old, or those who have underlying health conditions.
Influenza is not a ‘reportable disease’ in Iowa, which means doctors are not required to notify IDPH each time a patient tests positive for influenza; however, IDPH conducts year-round influenza surveillance through the Iowa Influenza Surveillance Network. This surveillance indicates what types of influenza viruses are circulating and how widespread influenza illness is. For more information about where and what kind of influenza is in Iowa, go to https://idph.iowa.gov/influenza/reports.
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/.