Flu activity has decreased nationwide for the first time this season, suggesting the country may be coming out of the worst of it, according to newly released federal reports.
Iowa, however, has seen its numbers drop, then climb again.
According to numbers released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of doctor visits nationwide for flu symptoms dropped this past week, the first significant decline all season.
About 6.4 percent of all doctor visits nationwide were for flu-like symptoms, including fever and cough. That measure dropped from 7.5 percent the previous week.
The 2017-2018 flu season — the worst such bout of an illness in the United States since the swine flu pandemic of 2009-2010, according to state and national health experts — has taken its toll.
So far this flu season, 157 Iowans accounted for influenza-related deaths between Oct. 1 and Feb. 17, the latest Iowa Department of Public Health report shows.
Although there have been no influenza-related pediatric deaths in the state, the CDC reported 13 deaths this week, bringing the total up to 97 nationwide.
According to Iowa state health officials, there were 135 influenza-related hospitalizations the week of Feb. 11-17, which increased from 125 the previous week.
That, in turn, had been a significant drop from 152 hospitalizations the week before.
The total number of people hospitalized due to the flu statewide was 1,328 since Oct. 1.
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Nationwide, there were a total of 21,297 influenza-association hospitalizations between Oct. 1 and Feb. 17. The highest rate of those affected were aged 65 or older.
The CDC does not report flu-related deaths.
The 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.
The Washington Post reported that this flu season has sent more people to the hospital with the illness than any other season in nearly a decade.
Although activity has decreased, federal health officials say they expect the current season to last for several more weeks, potentially into April.
The Iowa Department of Public Health says flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches and fatigue. Those with symptoms, but who normally are healthy, are encouraged to stay home 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 article.
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