Although Iowa’s influenza season typically does not begin until November, the Iowa Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) influenza surveillance network has already reported a handful of influenza cases in the state. “Flu vaccine is plentiful,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “Since it takes up to two weeks after vaccination for the body to develop full protection against the flu virus, being vaccinated now means you’ll be protected before the flu starts spreading and for the rest of the flu season.”
Essentially every Iowan over 6 months of age should receive the flu vaccine. It is especially important for some people to be vaccinated against influenza because they are at higher risk of developing serious complications, like pneumonia, if they get sick with the flu. These groups include:
• Pregnant women (by getting vaccinated when pregnant, the woman not only protects herself during this vulnerable time, but she will pass on protection to her newborn who is too young to receive a vaccine.)
• Children, especially those younger than 2 years of age
• Older adults, especially those aged 65 years and over
• People who have certain medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease
The flu is a respiratory illness caused by viruses. Illness typically lasts two to seven days. The flu comes on suddenly and may cause severe illness or even death, even in healthy individuals. The “stomach bug,” which causes diarrhea and vomiting, is NOT caused by the influenza virus, but usually by a different virus called “norovirus;” thus, the flu vaccine will not protect you against this illness.
No one can predict what the upcoming flu season will be like, but the flu season in the southern hemisphere can be an indication. It has been an especially severe flu season in Australia, which could indicate widespread flu in the U.S. this winter. One thing is certain: your best defense against getting the flu is an annual vaccination. In addition, by being vaccinated, you will prevent spreading the flu to those around you. For more information about Iowa influenza tracking and monitoring, visit https://www.idph.iowa.gov/influenza.