The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) urges all Iowans over 6 months of age to receive their yearly seasonal influenza vaccine. Surveillance by IDPH influenza sentinel sites and confirmatory testing by the State Hygienic Laboratory (SHL) shows the flu is circulating in Iowa, and appears to be particularly spreading among children.
IDPH Medical Director Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says “Children are known as ‘super spreaders’ because they are often in close contact with others at schools or daycare, and when ill, can quickly spread the illness to others.” Testing for viral strains by SHL shows three flu viruses – A(H3N2), A(H1N1) and B –
are already currently circulating in Iowa with A(H3N2) predominating. In years when A(H3N2) viruses dominate, the flu season tends to be more severe with more hospitalizations and deaths.
All three of these flu strains are covered by this year’s vaccine – A(H3N2), A(H1N1) and B, although some of the A(H3N2) viruses may only be partially covered in the vaccine. Iowans should be reminded that anti-viral medications are an important second line of defense to treat the flu. There are two anti-viral medications a doctor can prescribe which make flu illness milder, shorter, and reduce the risk of ending up in the hospital or dying from influenza. Antivirals work best if started within 48
hours or sooner of when flu symptoms begin.
While the flu vaccine is the best defense against getting influenza, it’s also important to take personal actions to help prevent the spread of illness. Remember the 3Cs: Cover your coughs and sneezes; Clean your hands frequently; and Contain germs by staying home when ill. The flu is a 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. 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. (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.)
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.