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Flu takes out teens, adults in county

Absentee lists grow as clinics diagnose more cases of Influenza and related illnesses

March 12, 2019
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

Friday morning, Dr. Jim Creech said he saw over a half dozen cases of Influenza A. at Avera Holy Family clinic. School and workplace parking lots sat empty as the highly contagious viral infection kept local residents home.

According to the Iowa Influenza Surveillance Network (IISN)'s most recent report, influenza is widespread in Iowa right now. The Centers for Disease Control report influenza at its highest rate, widespread, across the United States, except for Hawaii and the District of Columbia, where it is moderate. There are numerous strains of influenza. The most common types spreading now are Influenza A (H1N1), Influenza A (H3N2), and Influenza B.

Twelve schools in Iowa had more than 10 percent of students and staff absent due to illness, according to the report. The rate for the week is equal to the peak for the 2016-17 school year and appears on trend to reach the peak for the 2017-18 school year. That peak happened in early February, 2018. Northwest Iowa currently has the most schools in the survey of any of the six regions that have reported more than 10 percent of students and staff absent for the cumulative season at 26.

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Fourteen individuals across the state have died from influenza-associated causes from Sept. 30, 2018 to the current week, but none of them were children. The rate of influenza-related hospitalizations was 45 per 100,000 population. In people over age 65 the rate is 163 per 100,000 people in the hospital for influenza or RSV.

Kathy Preston, nurse administrator for Emmet County Public Health, said, "The single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each year."

If that microbe has flown, the best way to prevent the spread of the flu is to stay home.

Preston said, "Wash your hands often with soap and water, before and after eating, going to the bathroom, touching pets, phones or keyboards. Use hand sanitizer, stay away from others who are ill, and clean surfaces frequently and appropriately."

The best way to get better is to get plenty of rest and fluids, relieve symptoms with over-the-counter medications, and consult your doctor.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health Center for Acute Disease Epidemiology, "Flu viruses mainly spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop, and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick."

While in past decades, "it's just the flu" might have signaled a troublesome but mild course of illness, there are variations of the infection that can be severe.

"In the very young, the elderly, and those with other serious medical conditions, infection can lead to severe complications such as pneumonia," according to the state CADE website.

Influenza is a respiratory disease and is distinct from stomach bugs, though sometimes children may have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms include fever over 100 degrees, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. As a viral infection, it's possible to treat and relieve symptoms, but antibiotics will not help. For those at high risk for complications, there are antiviral prescriptions available.

Influenza becomes an emergency in children if they have: fast breathing or trouble breathing, bluish skin color, won't drink fluids, trouble waking up or interacting, extreme irritability, if symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough, or if they have a fever with rash.

Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces with bleach solution or commercial disinfectant becomes more important as the virus spreads in a community, according to CADE. Viruses can live up to two hours on some surfaces. Bleach solution, which must be made fresh daily, is made by mixing one-quarter cup bleach with one gallon of water to clean door handles, handrails, eating surfaces, toys and phones.



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