As winter weather quickly approaches, so does the height of flu season. This week marked the first notable increase in positive Influenza diagnoses of the year, according to Newton Clinic.
“We held a meeting with our physicians yesterday where we discussed that we’ve been seeing Influenza type A at an increased rate,” said Mark Thayer, clinic administrator.
While this is indeed cause for concern, Thayer emphasized that there is still time to protect yourself from the seasonal ailment.
“(Influenza) can be prevented with the routine flu vaccine which can be given at the Newton Clinic or Public Health,” he added. Many pharmacies as well as New Care Clinics in Baxter, Monroe and Colfax offer the preventative shot as well.
“We’ve seen it in various children which is a concern because it seems to us that senior citizens are very good about getting the shot, but it’s the other demographics that may think they don’t need it,” Thayer said.
In fact, according to Newton High School nurse Jody Smith, school absences related to illness — although not necessarily the flu — have been remarkably high all week.
“Once we hit more than 10 percent absent, we have to report it to the state,” Smith said. “Monday the high school was at 12 percent, Tuesday we had 14 percent gone, and then 12 percent again today (Wednesday).” Additionally, Thomas Jefferson Elementary reported 10 percent of students absent on Monday.
These numbers serve as a reminder that regardless of age or health, all people over the age of six months can benefit from the vaccine.
“We encourage the general public, including kids, healthy adults as well as senior citizens to get this flu shot,” Thayer said. “It’s not too late and this strain of Influenza is very preventable.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest data, Iowa is one of seven states nationwide and the only one in the Midwest with flu activity designated as “regional,” which is just one stage below “widespread” — the most severe classification.
This is due in part to 23.9 percent of Influenza tests returning a positive result, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s most recent data.
In addition to receiving the flu vaccine, the CDC recommends regular hand washing and avoiding others who may be sick. Smith added that Newton schools stress the IDPH’s 3 C’s: cover your cough, clean you hands and contain germs.
For more information regarding the Influenza vaccine, contact Jasper County’s Public Health office at (641) 792-5086.
Nicole Wiegand can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 422 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.