If you thought the mild winter would mean a lighter change of the flu, you're partially correct. Statewide and national surveillance shows influenza activity in Iowa and across the country remains low.
But, public health officials are reminding Iowans that the flu season is only just beginning.
"Typically, we hit the peak of flu activity in late January and February. We can have people getting sick with flu until April," said Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. "We know that although activity is low, influenza is out there. All three flu strains circulating this season have been found in Iowa, with two of them showing up just last week."
This means you could get the flu three times this year if you are not vaccinated. The good news is there is still time to get an influenza vaccination to protect against the disease.
All three strains of influenza identified in Iowa are covered by the flu vaccine. Even if an individual has already become ill with the flu from one of the strains, it's possible to become ill again with one of the other flu strains.
An influenza vaccine is the single most important thing people can do to protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu. The CDC recommends everyone over the age of 6 months receive the flu vaccine.
The flu is a respiratory illness caused by viruses and is among the top 10 causes of death in Iowa. It spreads easily from person to person and can cause mild to severe illness.
The flu 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. Influenza may cause severe illness or complications in people such as the very young or very old, or those who have underlying health conditions.
Contact your health care provider or local health department to find out where the vaccine is available in your community.
More information about influenza can be found at www.idph.state.ia.us/Cade/Influenza.aspx