Flu Season by the Numbers So Far
This flu season has been labeled the worst in a decade and it’s been catastrophic. So many people are getting sick across the nation that it’s officially been dubbed an epidemic, and schools throughout the country have been forced to close for days because of low attendance and the fear of spreading the illness further.
Iowa has not escaped this flu season’s hard grip. Here, Iowa Specialty Hospital in Clarion gives you the numbers for the flu season so far, plus some useful information about how to prevent it…and what to do if you get it.
Flu in Iowa
Iowa has been hit particularly hard by the flu, raising concerns from hospitals, physicians, and the public. So far, there have been 157 reported influenza deaths in Iowa alone, and the number is expected to continue to rise as more deaths are investigated and influenza is confirmed as the cause (which can take time). For comparison, at this time last year, only 50 deaths had been confirmed as influenza related, and the 157 deaths so far this year have already exceeded the influenza deaths reported for the entirety of last flu season, which was 135.
This week, 24 schools reported student absences greater than 10% due to influenza outbreaks, which is down significantly from the previously recorded 63 schools that were seeing major absence rates in the student population.
Thousands of people in Iowa have been confirmed as having a type of the flu this flu season, but this is likely an underestimate of the people actually affected, as some choose to treat the flu without seeing a physician.
Flu in the nation
The numbers aren’t much better when you look at the country as a whole. So far this flu season in the U.S., there have been more than 160,000 cases of the influenza virus reported—and that’s a conservative number, when considering there are likely many unreported cases. The cases that have been reported and tested are primarily Type A strains, the most prominent being H3N2, a particularly virulent strain of the flu. This flu season, 97 pediatric patients have died as a result of influenza or influenza-related complications, and that number is, again, expected to rise as more deaths are confirmed to be influenza-related. As for non-pediatric patients, the CDC hasn’t yet released a grand estimate due to the numerous cases, rapid infection, and the fact that hospitals aren’t required to report non-pediatric cases to the CDC.
The good news is that while the flu numbers are still elevated this week, there are signs of it finally hitting its peak. This could mean that the epidemic could start tapering off soon, bringing a sigh of relief to the nation. As the worst flu season in almost a decade, it’s definitely one we can’t wait to see end—but as the risk is still elevated, it’s not over yet.
How do I prevent it?
The usual tips are recommended for avoiding the flu: consistent hand-washing, sanitizing surfaces in your home and workplace, staying away from people you know are sick, and getting a flu shot. Though this year’s flu shot is only 10-30% effective, getting the shot can still help guard against the flu, and if you do wind up getting sick, the shot can make symptoms less severe and last for a shorter amount of time.
It’s always a good idea to keep your immune system in tip-top shape, too, and there are several things you can do to achieve this. Massages increase blood flow throughout your body, which can boost your immune system. Avoiding alcohol, eating healthy foods and protein, drinking herbal teas, getting plenty of sleep, and taking vitamin C can help your immune system stay in optimal shape, as well. Avoiding germs will also go a long way toward keeping yourself safe during this flu season, of course, so take precautions such as wiping down your cell phone periodically, carrying your own pen to places such as the bank, and, when possible, sanitizing other surfaces that are frequently touched by people, such as doorknobs, desks, and coins.
What do I do if I get it?
If you do wind up getting the flu, it’s important to take excellent care of yourself. When you get the flu, your body tends to be so focused on battling it that it can be susceptible to other illnesses, such as pneumonia and sepsis.
If sick, you should take medicine to control symptoms. Get a lot of rest, don’t exert yourself, and make sure you stay away from anyone else who is sick. If your flu is severe or persistent, you can see your physician, who can prescribe an antiviral medication that will help. It’s time to seek emergency medical attention or see your physician immediately if you experience an inability to keep fluids down, difficulty or pain with breathing, coughing up blood, difficulty thinking clearly and slurring of speech, or being too weak to stand.
This year’s flu season has been dire, and we haven’t quite seen the end of it yet. Specialists and the CDC are hopeful that this week’s report shows a peaking of the flu season, but if you find yourself or a loved one sick with the flu or needing a flu shot, Iowa Specialty Hospital is here to help.