Health

Prominent flu virus showing up in Iowa hasn't been seen in 27 years, public health experts say

Iowa seeing high activity since early December

A registered nurse fills a syringes with the H1N1 vaccine in this 2009 photo. (The Gazette).
A registered nurse fills a syringes with the H1N1 vaccine in this 2009 photo. (The Gazette).

The current influenza season has brought a new type of virus to Iowa that hasn’t been prominent in nearly 30 years, leading some state public health officials to believe those who haven’t had the virus before will be more at risk.

The emergence of this unlikely strain of flu has occurred across the country. National public health officials have cautioned that young Americans may be more susceptible to falling ill and to encourage individuals to take advantage of the flu vaccine.

Iowa Department of Public Health reported this week that influenza B — in particular from the Victoria lineage — has been the predominant virus detected at Iowa’s State Hygienic Laboratory. Influenza B viruses have not been the predominant flu virus in the United States for 27 years, since the 1992-93 season, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Because of that, people in their 20s and younger may not have been exposed to this particular virus before and “might not have the immune response to fight this,” said Dr. Caitlin Pedati, state medical director and epidemiologist with the Iowa Department of Public Health.

“If a body hasn’t had to fight it before, it can be more susceptible,” Pedati said. “That’s the point of vaccines — so if your body hasn’t seen it before, your immune system knows how to fight it.”

According to the CDC, influenza B virus infections account for the majority of reported influenza-associated pediatric deaths so far this season.

No pediatric deaths have occurred in Iowa as of the first week in January, the most recent report available.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The state public health department reports influenza activity in Iowa has been increasing on most indicators since early December. In the first week of January alone, the State Hygienic Laboratory identified 76 influenza B/Victoria lineage viruses from samples sent by health care providers from across the state.

The lab also identified nearly two dozen types of influenza A strains.

The Department of Public Health said there have been 12 influenza-associated mortalities this flu season, as well as 57 flu-related hospitalizations.

Nationwide, the CDC reported more than 68 percent of positive results from tests in clinical labs were linked to influenza B. Those infections have accounted for nearly half the hospitalizations reported to the CDC.

So far, the CDC has tallied about 9.7 million cases of the flu, about 4,8000 flu-related deaths and about 87,000 hospitalizations.

“Influenza activity is expected to continue for many weeks in the United States. Additional hospitalizations and deaths, including among children, are expected to occur,” the CDC said.

Pedati said while some preliminary data from the CDC shows children are more likely to be affected this season, the flu still is capable of making anyone sick. That’s why it’s important individuals take advantage of the flu vaccine, she said.

“For anyone who hasn’t had it yet, it isn’t too late to get your vaccine,” she said.

Yearly flu vaccination is recommended for almost everyone more than six months of age, according to the Department of Public Health.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The elderly and the very young still are the most at risk for developing flu-related complications, including children younger than the age of five and adults aged 65 years and older,

Symptoms of the flu are the same regardless of the strain. They include fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches and stomach symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, according to the state public health department.

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

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.