Health

This season's Iowa flu death total more than double last year's

Report: Prominent strain declines, milder virus rate grows

(FILE PHOTO) A bag of normal saline hangs next to a patient’s bed in the surgical unit at Unity Point Health St. Luke’s Hospital on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
(FILE PHOTO) A bag of normal saline hangs next to a patient’s bed in the surgical unit at Unity Point Health St. Luke’s Hospital on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

This year’s flu season has topped more than 200 influenza-associated deaths — more than double what the rate was last year, according to the latest Iowa Department of Public Health report.

The report, which accumulated flu data from Oct. 1, 2017, to March 3, 2018, stated 207 Iowans have died this season due to influenza-related activity.

As of March 11 of last year, public health officials said there was a total of 95 flu-associated deaths.

The prominent virus is H3N2, an “A” strain, according to state public health officials. 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.

However, the state’s public health report has found while the “A” strain is declining, the rates of a milder “B” strain are increasing in recent weeks.

In the week of the report, the State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa, which is the primary lab for influenza testing and reporting, detected 16 influenza “A” viruses and 42 influenza “B” viruses.

John McGlothlen / The Gazette

Despite this, national experts seem confident the country has made it past peak flu season, according to the latest flu report from the federal Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

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But a word of caution to Iowans — the state bucked a national trend at the end of last month when flu activity increased in the state while the rest of the country dropped.

The Washington Post reported that this flu season has sent more people to the hospital with the illness nationwide than any other season in nearly a decade.

Iowa saw 103 influenza-related hospitalizations the week that ended March 3, bringing the season total to 1,522.

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.

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

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