Surveillance data in Iowa shows that while still relatively low, influenza activity is increasing and that the dominant strain is 2009 H1N1. In 2009 this strain posed a higher risk for complications such as pneumonia and hospitalizations in very young children and pregnant women. Fortunately this strain was included in this year’s flu vaccination.
Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director said “flu season typically peaks in January and February and can continue into spring months so it is not too late to get vaccinated.”
Influenza usually causes the most illness and complications in the elderly, very young and people with chronic health conditions but in the past the 2009 H1N1 strain caused the most illness among young children, young and middle-age adults, and pregnant women. Influenza is more than a stuffy nose or scratchy throat, it can cause fever, headaches and fatigue for up to two weeks and can be very contagious, even before people have symptoms.
“Because we’re seeing mostly the 2009 H1N1 strain this means that even healthy young adults can be at risk for getting very sick and passing it on to others,” said Kozin. “The best protection remains the flu vaccination but it is also extremely important to wash hands often and thoroughly and to stay home when you are sick.”
However, don’t count on everyone else getting vaccinated as your protection against the flu (herd immunity). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the beginning of flu season only about 40% of Americans had received their flu shot.
Influenza vaccinations are widely available in a variety of types at an affordable price. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccination. Anyone who is at high risk for complications (pregnant women, young kids, people with chronic health conditions) should see their doctor as soon as possible if they suspect they have influenza. If given antiviral medications within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms the severity and duration of illness can be decreased. Antibiotics are not effective at treating influenza.
Flu vaccinations are available at the Polk County Health Department on a walk-in basis Monday through Friday from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm and until 7:00 pm on Tuesdays. Most types of insurance are accepted or the fee is $20 for people without health insurance however no one will be turned away because of an inability to pay.