Influenza activity in Iowa is currently very low; however, Iowa’s influenza season typically starts in November and peaks in January or February, so it can begin any time. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) urges Iowans to get their annual flu vaccination now if they have not already done so. “Since it takes up to two weeks after vaccination for the body to develop full protection against the flu virus, being vaccinated now means you’ll be protected before the flu starts spreading and for the rest of the flu season,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk.
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports out of the 150 flu viruses collected by U.S. laboratories, 92 percent were shown to match one of the four strains included in this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine. “What that means for Iowans is that if you get a flu shot this year, you’ll be protected from almost all of the flu strains going around this season,” said Quinlisk.
Basically, every Iowan over 6 months of age should receive the flu vaccine. It’s especially important for some people to be vaccinated against influenza because they are at higher risk of developing serious complications, like pneumonia, if they get sick with the flu. These groups include:
- Pregnant women (by getting vaccinated when pregnant, the woman not only protects herself during this vulnerable time, but she will pass on protection to her newborn who is too young to receive a vaccine.)
- Children, especially those younger than 2 years of age
- Older adults, especially those aged 65 years and over
- People who have certain medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease
The flu is a respiratory illness caused by viruses. Illness typically lasts two to seven days. The flu comes on suddenly and may cause severe illness or even death, even in healthy individuals. The ‘stomach bug’, which causes diarrhea and vomiting, is NOT caused by the influenza virus but usually by a different virus called ‘norovirus’; thus, the flu vaccine will not protect you against this illness.
What will the upcoming flu season be like? No one can predict that, but one thing is certain: your best defense against getting the flu is an annual vaccination. In addition, by getting vaccinated, you will prevent spreading the flu to those around you. For more information about Iowa influenza tracking and monitoring, visit idph.iowa.gov/influenza/reports.