The number of influenza-related deaths in Iowa now stands at 25 since October 2, 2016, including 11 deaths reported to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) during the week ending January 28, 2017. All but one of the individuals who have died had underlying conditions or contributing factors. Since October, deaths have been reported in the following regions of Iowa:
- Central (seven deaths)
- Northeast (four deaths)
- Northwest (two deaths)
- Southwest (eight deaths)
- Southeast (one death)
- Eastern (three deaths)
The deaths include 19 elderly (81+ years of age) and two older adults (61 to 80 years). “While it is never too late to get a flu vaccination, the time to get the most benefit from one is starting to dwindle,” said State Epidemiologist and IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “The flu vaccination takes a few days to reach its maximum protection level, so waiting too much longer will mean diminished protection during the peak of the season.” Another way to prevent influenza spread is to remember the 3 Cs – Cover your coughs and sneezes; Clean your hands; and Contain germs by staying home when ill, and especially for at least 24 hours after a fever stops.
Flu activity in Iowa (and most of the nation) is widespread, the highest category. Because influenza is not a ‘reportable’ disease in Iowa, doctors are not required to notify IDPH each time a case is diagnosed; however, IDPH conducts influenza surveillance that helps identify what strains of flu are circulating, how widespread illness is, and in what regions of the state illness is occurring. All four flu strains covered by this year’s vaccine have been reported in the state.
During cold weather, cases of norovirus, or the ‘stomach bug’, tend to increase. Norovirus is often mistakenly called ‘the flu’, but it is not related to influenza. Norovirus causes vomiting and diarrhea and is prevented through proper food handling, hand washing, and staying home when ill. There is no vaccine for noroviruses. Influenza, on the other hand, can be prevented or its severity diminished with the flu vaccine. The flu is a respiratory illness caused by viruses. The flu comes on suddenly and may cause severe illness or even death in people such as the very young or very old, or those who have underlying health conditions. 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.