Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

December 27, 2013

Flu activity increases as new year approaches

By John Michaelson
The Daily Iowegian

---- — DES MOINES — With flu activity on the rise across the state, doctors are urging residents to protect themselves by getting vaccinated.

Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, Iowa’s state epidemiologist, says several strains are circulating, but what doctors are seeing most is the H1N1 virus that first emerged in 2009.

“That was the year where, didn’t have very many young children and elderly get ill,” she says, “but we had a lot of school-aged kids being hospitalized, and we’re seeing that again.

“So, this year in particular, we want to make sure that those school-aged kids and people who are, say, up to about 50 years of age or 55, that they realize that this year they are at particular risk, and not to put off getting their flu shot.”

The H1N1 strain is among those covered with this year’s flu vaccine.

It is recommended for everyone ages six months and older, and doctors say it’s especially important for those who have regular contact with high-risk populations.

That includes pregnant women, people with chronic health problems, young children and the elderly.

In addition to getting a shot, Quinlisk says some basic hygiene can also help a person avoid getting the flu or spreading it to others.

That includes covering your cough and regularly washing your hands.

“We do know that this time of year, people can shake hands with somebody and unfortunately, catch a virus that way, or even doorknobs and things like that,” she explains. “So, keeping your hands clean can really do a lot to protect yourself from picking up one of these viruses.”

Quinlisk also reminds people that if they are ill, to stay home from work or school, as to not spread the flu to others.