Influenza 'widespread' across Iowa

Monday, December 29, 2014

PLYMOUTH CO. -- Influenza and flu cases are increasing across the state of Iowa, including here in Plymouth County.

The Iowa Department of Public Health, or IDPH, issued a press release Monday about an increase in Influenza activity.

Influenza is a type of flu or respiratory illness caused by viruses.

Symptoms may include fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches.

The press release issued by the IDPH stated cases of influenza have been confirmed by the State Hygienic Lab in every region of the state.

Tara Geddes, Floyd Valley Community Health manager, said several cases of influenza have been treated in Le Mars.

"It is widespread throughout the state, which means that every county and every area has been affected by it," Geddes said.

The Iowa Influenza Surveillance Network indicated 130 influenza-related hospitalizations have occurred in the state.

The majority of those cases involved people aged 64 or greater, according to the press release.

"It affects younger kids and older adults the most," Geddes said.

The most common flu virus circulating is the influenza A(H3N2) strain, although four different strains have been identified, according to the IDPH.

The press release stated in years when A(H3N2) viruses dominate, the flu season tends to be more severe with more hospitalizations and deaths.

Based upon the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's national estimates, an average of 300,000 Iowans get the flu every year.

Flu and its complication of pneumonia cause an average of 1,000 deaths yearly in Iowa, according to the press release.

Geddes said it is very important to get the flu vaccine to help with the prevention of influenza.

However, because the A(H3N2) viruses are only partially covered in the vaccine, it's still important to take other preventive measures, according to the press release.

The IDPH encourages people to cover coughs and sneezes, clean hands frequently and contain germs by staying home when ill.

Geddes said she supports the IDPH preventive techniques.

"The biggest thing to do to prevent it is good hand washing and then staying home when you're sick," Geddes said.

Anti-viral medications are another important treatment for influenza.

Anti-virals are consider the second line of defense for the flu virus, Geddes said.

Anti-vital medication can make flu illness shorter.

The medication works best when used within the first 48 hours of showing symptoms, according to the press release.

It may also reduce the risk of ending up in the hospital or dying from influenza.

If a patient is past the two-day window for anti-viral treatment, Geddes said there are still other options.

"Lots of rest, drinking fluids, staying home and away from other people. That's the main things you can do with viral infections," she said.

Patients receiving treatment may still be contagious five to seven days after symptoms appear, Geddes said.

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