COPY-Reviewing the '09-'10 flu season - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

COPY-Reviewing the '09-'10 flu season

IOWA CITY (KWWL) - It was one year ago next month that the term "H1N1" became a household term. The mysterious new strain of flu led to widespread fear and new precautions, all in an effort to prevent its spread.

In all, 57 million Americans were sickened, and dozens of Iowans perished. Recently, confirmed cases of the H1N1 flu strain seem to have dropped off statewide.

Julie Sturbaum, Infection Control Manager at St. Luke's Hospital, has seen almost no sign of the seasonal flu yet, which is unusual. However, other illnesses have been on the rise.

"We did have a little upswing in RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) in the kids, and so there are other viruses that can cause respiratory illnesses, but we haven't had a lot of positive influenzas here recently," Sturbaum said.

She told us St. Luke's was prepared for the worst, even though the H1N1 strain ended up being relatively mild. But, it took some people off-guard, including the doctors charged with testing and producing a vaccine. The season also presented challenges for the University of Iowa's Hygienic Laboratory, but one doctor told us the experience has better prepared them for the emergence of new future strains.

"We really learned from this," said Dr. Lucy DesJardin, program manager. "We went from basically testing no samples, to testing 250 a day."

Of the 500 samples the lab has received so far this year, Dr. DesJardin says only about three percent of those tested positive for influenza, and nearly all of them were H1N1. Some health professionals are predicting a third wave of the flu to strike in spring or summer, but she says there's no way to know for sure.

"If the seasonal influenza or H1N1 comes back and starts increasing in prevalence, we should be able to detect that."

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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