MAHASKA COUNTY – Though the flu season has been relatively quiet in Iowa so far, we may begin to see an increase in cases. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has recently announced the death of two individuals due to influenza complications.
“Many people think about the influenza virus before the holiday season, then think it’s over and done afterwards,” MHP Public Health Coordinator Patty Malloy explained. “However, the spreading of the virus usually peaks sometime in February. With two recent deaths in Iowa, it’s especially important for those who have not received their flu vaccine to get it now to ensure protection when flu season does peak.”
According to the IDPH, all four strains of the influenza virus that are covered by the vaccine are currently circulating in Iowa. “With at least four strains of the flu virus currently active in Iowa, someone who is unvaccinated could potentially get the flu four different times this season,” Malloy shared. “Most people can recover from the flu, but those who are elderly or have a weakened immune system can face serious consequences if they contract the virus. That’s why it’s so important to get you and your family vaccinated yearly; you’re not only protecting them, but also those who may be unable to get the vaccine too.”
Malloy stressed that the flu virus can spread quickly through public places like schools, daycares, workplaces and places with grocery carts or other shared equipment. “The flu vaccine is still your best defense against the virus. However, some virus strains may only be partially covered in the vaccine, so it’s just as important to prevent the spread of illness by remembering the 3Cs: Cover coughs and sneezes, clean hands frequently and contain germs by staying home when ill.”
Anti-viral medications are an important second line of defense to treat influenza. According to the IDPH, anti-viral medications, such as tamiflu, can reduce the duration and risk of serious illness and even death from influenza. However, these medications work best if started within 48 hours, or sooner, of the onset of symptoms.
“People often get the flu mixed up with a stomach bug, such as the norovirus, which is also currently in Iowa,” Malloy explained. “However, the flu is an upper respiratory infection, not the vomiting and diarrhea commonly referred to as the flu.
“Watch for a sudden high fever, severe fatigue, headache, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion or body aches, as signs of the flu,” Malloy continued. “Seek immediate medical attention if you have these symptoms. With influenza, it’s vital the virus is addressed as quickly as possible.”
Flu vaccines are available on the MHP campus through entrance #4, no appointment necessary. Stop in anytime Monday through Friday between 8:00 am and 4:15 pm. Regular and high-dose vaccines are available for those age 65 and older; call 641.672.3360 for more information.
Mahaska Health Partnership, located in Oskaloosa, is a non-profit health system accredited by the Joint Commission. It is guided by its mission to provide exceptional customer service and health improvement, linking the science of medicine with the humanity of compassionate care. For more information about how Mahaska Health Partnership is making healthcare personal, visit mahaskahealth.org.