Sheldon, Iowa — Many cases of the flu are being reported in northwest Iowa, and the normal way most people avoid the flu is not working as well as was hoped.
We had a chance to visit with Dr. Amy Badberg at Sanford Sheldon Hospital. She tells us that the flu vaccine does not work as well against the “A” strain of the flu virus this year, so they have some suggestions.
The Iowa Department of Health clarifies that all three of the flu strains currently circulating are covered by this year’s vaccine, although some of the A(H3N2) viruses may only be partially covered in the vaccine. Dr. Badberg says that although the flu season is in full swing, it’s not too late to receive a flu vaccination, and they still recommend that you do if you haven’t yet, as even if you get the type of flu that’s not fully covered, you may have the flu for a shorter amount of time, or have fewer symptoms.
Dr. Badberg says that when it comes to treating those that already have the flu, their hands are tied.
She tells us what to do if you think you have the flu.
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Here’s some more information about the flu from the Iowa Department of Public Health.
In addition to vaccination, IDPH recommends the Three Cs for preventing flu illness: Clean your hands frequently; Cover coughs and sneezes; and Confine germs by staying home when ill. “We certainly understand that keeping an ill child home from school or daycare puts a burden on working parents who have to adjust their work schedule to be home as well,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “But the risk of severe illness is very real. Even if you think your child can ‘stick it out’ for the school day, it’s important to remember that other children in the classroom may be at risk for serious complications from the flu and your child could spread the virus to them. This includes children with weakened immune systems or chronic conditions.”
IDPH continues to receive reports of influenza-related hospitalizations and outbreaks. IDPH has confirmed two influenza-related deaths in children (age 0-17). A third pediatric death is under investigation. People at high risk for serious flu complications include: people with underlying chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or neurological conditions; pregnant women; those younger than 5 years or older than 65 years of age; or anyone with a weakened immune system. A full list of high risk factors is available at www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/
Antivirals drugs are a second line of defense to treat flu illness. People at high risk should take antiviral medications for the treatment of influenza illness if they have been prescribed. It’s important to contact your health care provider right away if you or your child shows symptoms of the flu, since antivirals work best if given within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Nasal congestion
- Body aches
Illness typically lasts two to seven days. The flu is a respiratory illness caused by viruses. The flu comes on suddenly and may cause severe illness or even death. The “stomach bug,” which causes diarrhea and vomiting, is not caused by the influenza virus but usually by norovirus; thus, the flu vaccine will not protect you against this illness.
The flu season typically peaks in February and can last as late as May. To learn more about influenza in Iowa, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/Cade/