The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reports the spread of influenza is picking up across Iowa and other parts of the country. Surveillance by the IDPH Iowa Influenza Surveillance Network shows three strains (all of which are covered by the vaccine) are currently circulating, including H1N1 (2009 pandemic strain), H3N2 (regular seasonal flu strain) and Influenza B. With the holiday season upon us and many Iowans traveling and attending family gatherings, IDPH reminds Iowans that an annual flu vaccination is the best way to protect them and their loved ones from the flu.
"There is still time to get a flu vaccination to offer protection over the holidays," said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. "As people gather together for holiday meals and parties, they're more likely to spread illness around. Receiving the flu vaccine will help you stay healthy to enjoy all the festivities, and will also keep you from making others sick."
This is especially important during family gatherings that infants, those with chronic diseases, or elderly individuals might attend. Infants younger than 6 months of age are not old enough to receive the influenza vaccine, so they are at a higher risk of catching the flu from someone else and they have the highest chance of being hospitalized if they get ill. If you are ill with flu-like symptoms during the holidays, you need to stay home and away from others.
The flu vaccine is plentiful, widely available, and is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. While the flu vaccine is the best defense against getting influenza, it's also important to take personal actions to help prevent the spread of illness. Remember the 3Cs: Cover your coughs and sneezes; Clean your hands frequently; and Contain germs by staying home when ill.
The flu is a serious 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. Influenza may cause severe illness or even death in people such as the very young or very old, or those who have underlying health conditions.
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.Contact your health care provider or local health department to find out where the vaccine is available in your community or use the Flu Vaccine Finder at www.flu.gov/.