Three strains of flu circulating in Iowa

Staff Writer
Story City Herald

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) says all three flu viruses covered by this year’s vaccine - A(H3N2), A(H1N1) and B - are currently circulating in Iowa. Nationally, an additional A(H3N2) strain is accounting for about half the illness seen across the country so far this year. The CDC today announced the current influenza vaccine does not offer as effective protection against this strain. So far, this ‘drifted’ strain of the A(H3N2) virus has not been confirmed by testing in Iowa.

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and CDC remind Iowans the influenza vaccine is still the best way to protect against the flu. Additionally, Iowans should be reminded that anti-viral medications are an important second line of defense to treat the flu.

“In years when A(H3N2) viruses dominate, we tend to have more severe flu seasons with more hospitalizations and death,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “Since antiviral medications only work well if taken very early in the illness – usually within 48 hours - it is even more important to see your doctor right away if you have flu symptoms so you can begin the medications.” This is especially true for the very young, very old, women who are pregnant, and those with chronic diseases like heart or lung disease. These individuals are more likely to be at risk for severe complications of the flu, including being hospitalized and dying.

Many people assume there is no treatment for the flu beyond over-the-counter medications and rest. There are actually two anti-viral medications a doctor can prescribe which make flu illness milder, shorter, and reduce the risk of ending up in the hospital or dying from influenza. Antivirals work best if started within 48 hours or sooner of when flu symptoms begin.

“Our message to Iowans is clear,” said Dr. Quinlisk. “The best way to prevent the flu is the influenza vaccine. The best way to lessen complications of the flu is antiviral medication. The best way to prevent the spread of flu is to stay home when ill.”

The flu is a respiratory illness caused by viruses. 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 even death.

For more information about where and what kind of influenza is in Iowa, go to www.idph.state.ia.us/Cade/Influenza.aspx?pg=FluHome.