Three strains of flu circulating in iowa
Still time to vaccinate to protect against peak of season
The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) says flu activity in Iowa is increasing, prompting IDPH to increase the level of geographic spread of influenza from local to regional spread. All three flu viruses covered by this year’s vaccines - influenza A (H3), influenza A (H1N1), influenza B (Victoria) - are currently circulating in Iowa. The two influenza A viruses are covered by the traditional trivalent (three strain) flu vaccine and this influenza B virus is also included in the quadrivalent (four strain) flu vaccine.
The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and CDC remind Iowans the influenza vaccine is still the best way to protect against the flu. “It’s still not too late to receive the vaccine to ensure protection before the peak of flu season hits,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. Flu season typically peaks in late January or February. “Additionally, even if you have had the flu already, it’s possible to become ill with one of the other strains circulating. Vaccination will protect against getting influenza a second or even third time this year,” said Quinlisk.
Many people assume there is no treatment for the flu beyond over-the-counter medications and rest. There are actually three 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. Those at highest risk of complications should contact their health care provider as soon as flu symptoms begin.
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. So far this season, there have been four influenza-related deaths in Iowa: two middle-aged (41 to 60 years of age) adults in central Iowa, one middle-aged adult in eastern Iowa, and an elderly adult (81+ years of age) in central Iowa.
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/.