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Flu Virus Continues to Spread Across Iowa

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Flu shot (WHO-HD)

DES MOINES, Iowa — If you feel like everyone around you is getting sick with the flu, it’s not just your imagination. The Iowa Department of Public Health is tracking the highest number influenza cases so far this flu season.

“We are seeing flu everywhere in the state,” said Patricia Quinlisk, Director of the IDPH. “We are seeing all of the numbers for everything, people hospitalized, people going into get tested, people seen for flu like illnesses, schools are having outbreaks, long-term cares are having outbreaks. The numbers are rapidly increasing across the board.”

Right now, the flu is classified as regional but Quinlisk expect that to be upgraded to widespread any day and that would be the highest level they could offer.

Friday afternoon the IDPH will release the most current flu numbers but in the meantime they are worried about two things, the number of strands affecting people and who the flu is hitting.

First, this year is unique because officials are seeing all four strands of the flu across the state. In a normal year, they treat one strand of the flu and maybe a second during bad years.

“What is different this year is that we are seeing all four strands of the flu at the same time in Iowa,” said Dr. Quinlisk. “The good news is that the vaccine covers all four and it’s a good match.”

The second worrisome item for IDPH is where the flu is hitting. The worst places for the flu in Iowa this year are long term care facilities and that may bring higher death numbers.

“Unfortunately, in those facilities we have some of the most vulnerable people to the flu,” said Quinlisk. “Their immune systems aren’t the strongest.”

One of the best ways to keep everyone safe is to get a flu shot. Quinlisk estimates that only half of all Iowans get vaccinated against the flu. While it’s late in the flu season, it’s not too late to get your flu shot.

“We know that the flu can peak at any time. Flu season is unpredictable. It can peak as early as October or as late as May,” says Nola Aigner, Polk County Health Department. “Typically we see the flu most in January and February, when it peaks. So, it’s important to get your flu shot at any time. Especially right now, since we are seeing number increasing in the state of Iowa.”

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