34 more flu-related deaths in Iowa this week

Department reports 77 total deaths during this year's flu season

(File photo) Devices used to take blood pressure, temperature, and examine eyes and ears rest on a wall inside of a doctor’s office.  (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
(File photo) Devices used to take blood pressure, temperature, and examine eyes and ears rest on a wall inside of a doctor’s office. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

34 more Iowans died this week as a result of influenza-related illness, state health officials announced Friday.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s latest flu report, there were 34 flu-related deaths this week, bringing the statewide total to 77 deaths since Oct. 1.

This year’s prominent virus is H3N2, an “A” strain. It’s known to be particularly dangerous 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.

The virus is widespread across the majority of the United States, and the Washington Post reported federal officials said Friday that this year’s flu season has sent more people to the hospital with illness than any other season in nearly a decade.

Iowa is expected to reach this season’s peak sometime during the beginning of this month.

Friday’s report also stated there were 143-influenza-related hospitalizations this week, and a cumulative total this season of 892.

Mercy Iowa City also announced Friday it was implementing visitor restrictions “to help reduce exposure to the flu virus for patients, visitors and clinical staff,” a hospital news release said.

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Visitors are limited to no more than two adults who are immediate family members, and children are not allowed to visit at this time.

Those who are exhibiting symptoms will not be allowed to visit, the news release stated.

The majority of those hospitalized were aged 65 and older. The state health department stated there have been 56 total outbreaks at long-term care facilities throughout Iowa, with upward of 10 taking place during the first week in January.

This year’s influenza is also impacting school attendance, with 33 schools across the state reporting more than 10 percent of their student body absent at one point this past week.

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.

The Washington Post contributed to this story.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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