Influenza levels continue to build in Iowa and the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) is confirming an additional eight flu-related deaths. Five of the deaths occurred in Central Iowa and included two female older adults (61 to 80 years of age); two elderly females (81+ years of age); and one elderly male. Two of the deaths occurred in Southwest Iowa (both were elderly females) and one death, an elderly male, occurred in Eastern Iowa. Five of the eight individuals had an underlying health condition.
Since October 1, 2017, 14 influenza-related deaths have been reported. The deaths have occurred in all regions of the state and the average age was 85.
The predominant flu strain this season is AH3N2, which typically causes serious illnesses, hospitalizations and even death, particularly for those who are very young or old and those with weakened immune systems.
“It’s not too late yet to get a flu shot,” said IDPH Medical Director and State Epidemiologist, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “Getting vaccinated now will still offer protection from serious disease, hospitalization and death for most of the flu season. We will very likely continue to see the flu for months.”
It’s also important to contact your health care provider as soon as possible after flu symptoms begin, especially if you are at high risk of complications and serious disease. If you start on anti-viral medications within a day or two of when your symptoms start, your risk of serious disease, hospitalization and even death can be significantly reduced.
The flu is a respiratory illness caused by viruses. It 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, and often puts healthy people in bed for days.
Because influenza is not a reportable disease in Iowa, doctors are not required to notify IDPH each time a case is diagnosed; however, IDPH conducts influenza surveillance that helps identify what strains of flu are circulating, how widespread illness is, and in what regions of the state illness is occurring. While cases of influenza are not reportable, influenza-related deaths are reported to IDPH. For more information on influenza, visit https://idph.iowa.gov/influenza/faq.