The flu season is in full swing with the number of influenza cases increasing. The Centers for Disease Control reports widespread activity in parts of the country. In Iowa, activity is still relatively low, but the dominant strain is one that can cause complications in young and otherwise healthy people.
This is a busy time of year for Dr. Hanna Engel-Brower. She says, "The flu season is in full swing. We're seeing more and more cases every day."
Lately, she sees at least a couple patients with the flu every day at the UnityPoint Clinic in Waukee. She says, "The CDC predicts this year the flu will actually peak in February, so it's not too late."
She says the number one way to prevent the flu is get a flu shot. It takes about two weeks to get full immunity. And, health experts recommend everyone six months and older get vaccinated.
Polk County Health Department Public Information Officer Sarah Boese says, "Since the predominant strain this year is the 2009 H1N1 strain, what this means is that instead of the usual people who are at risk, we're going to be seeing a lot more young healthy adults getting sick."
In the past two weeks, 16 people were hospitalized for the flu at Iowa Methodist Medical Center. Mercy Medical Center treated more than twenty people for influenza. A spokesperson for Mercy reports seven kids were hospitalized for the flu since November, including a baby just four weeks old.
Boese says, "It not only protects yourself from getting sick and having to miss a couple days of work, but it also prevents you from passing it on to someone else who could have serious consequences from it."
Washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer is also really important for preventing the spread of the flu. Boese also says, "And making sure you're staying home when you are sick, so you're not spreading that to people who might be at high risk for implications.
If you think you have the flu, people at high risk for complications, like young children, pregnant woman and those with chronic medical conditions, should see their doctor right way.
There's no shortage of flu shots this year. And, the vaccine does protect against strain most commonly found this season, H1N1.The Polk County Health Department offers flu shots from eight to four Monday through Friday. It's open until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays. It costs $20 if you don't have insurance, but Boese says no one is turned away for not being able to pay. You can also get a shot at many doctor's offices, drug stores and grocery stores.