Fourteen more Iowans have been killed by flu-related illnesses in the past week, state officials reported Friday. Those numbers underscore the severity of this year’s season that has packed emergency rooms and impacted school attendance.
Friday’s report from the Iowa Department of Public Health brings the total flu-related deaths since Oct. 1 up to 43, making this the worst season in recent years.
This year’s prominent strain is an “A” strain called H3N2. It’s known to cause hospitalizations and deaths, particularly for the very young, the very old and those with any chronic health problems, such as a heart condition or asthma, according to health officials.
Friday’s report also stated there haven been 747 total influenza-related hospitalizations since Oct. 1. This past week there were 151 hospitalizations, with the majority of those patients aged 65 or older.
Not all victims are elderly. One of the most recent Iowa deaths included 34-year-old Newton resident Nikki Burtlow, who died Jan. 12.
Nationwide, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported widespread activity of influenza in 49 states — all except Hawaii.
The CDC does not keep exact counts of adult flu deaths, but federal health officials say flu-related deaths among children nationally is up to 37 for the 2017-2018 season.
Iowa has not reported any pediatric deaths this season.
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Some federal health officials are comparing this year’s flu season to the pandemic season in 2014-2015, which killed 56,000 people and hospitalized 710,000 nationwide.
During that season, 148 children died related to flu-related illnesses. Last year, for 2016-2017, the CDC stated that number was 110 nationwide.
The Iowa Department of Public Health continues to recommend a flu vaccine for any one over the age six months.
The CDC has found this year’s vaccine is only about 30 percent effective, but public health officials say the shot can at least reduce symptoms. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches and fatigue.
Those with symptoms but who normally are healthy are encouraged to stay home during until they feel better.
However, individuals should seek medical attention if they are having trouble breathing, if they have high fevers or they are hard to wake up. Those who have a fever that falls and then reoccurs also are encouraged to see a doctor because that could be a sign that they have been infected with a secondary bacteria.
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