More flu strains seen earlier this year - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

More flu strains seen earlier this year

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BLACK HAWK COUNTY (KWWL)-- It could be a bad omen as the Iowa Department of Public Health announces early strains of the flu.  Three strains have already been identified including "B" Brisbane, AH3, and H1N1.  And health officials say its very unusual to see that many stains of the virus before the peak of flu season, which is typically in February and March.

"The symptoms of the three are all the same.  You're going to have a high fever and respiratory symptoms like coughing, sore throat.  And then often, you'll have joint and muscle aches and pains and feel really tired.  And you may lose your appetite.  You may have to go to bed for several days or even a week, and that can happen even with people who are otherwise healthy," said  Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, Iowa Department of Public Heath Medical Director.

So far this year, the Centers for Disease Control reports 160 million doses of the flu vaccine have been given out nationwide.  But unfortunately, early signs may indicate there's going to be a hike in the numbers for the influenza virus.

Certainly the flu isn't something to be taken lightly.  After all, many people are not just sickened from the virus.  Around 36,000 people die each year from flu complications.  And with the bug arriving early in Iowa, experts are encouraging everyone to take measures to prevent and limit its spread.

The staff at Cedar Valley Preschool & Daycare in Cedar falls is constantly cleaning.

"We make a practice of it on a daily basis, whether it's flu season or not, in terms of sanitizing tables, toys, chairs, any of the surfaces in the building that children will have contact, including the restrooms and so forth," said Linda Jacoby, director of the center.

Luckily, there has not been a big flu outbreak at the care center yet.  And the staff hopes to keep it that way.  Rigorous cleaning practices help to kill germs, and frequent hand washing is a must.

"We try to make sure the children are practicing good sanitation as well, helping them learn to wash their hands carefully and use the paper towel to shut the water off because we want to make sure the children are as healthy as possible," said Jacoby.

Art projects and songs also help encourage other healthy practices, like covering coughs and sneezes to prevent sicknesses from spreading.  Those measures might be especially important this year, since three strains of the flu are already prevalent in Iowa.

"This may be a response to the fact that H1N1 is no longer the exclusive circulating strain of influenza virus.  So the other ones are now gaining a foothold and are starting to circulate more readily.  But what that means in terms of the numbers of cases of the other strains remains to be seen," said Bruce Meisinger, director of the Black Hawk County Health Department.

So it's a good thing that this year's flu shot does protect against all of the flu viruses that are currently going around.  And there's said to be an ample supply of the vaccine this year.  So getting the shot can help stop the viruses in their tracks.

Health experts say the recent drop to cooler temperatures is a trigger for the flu virus.  That's why the flu typically arrives in the winter, because the virus thrives in cold, dry weather.

Now, if you got the H1N1 shot earlier this year, health officials still encourage you to get the regular flu vaccine to protect you from the other active strains of the virus.  This year, the World Health Organization is recommending that everyone of six months of age should get a flu shot, including pregnant women.  Officials say older adults, families and people with diabetes and heart problems are particularly at risk for the flu.

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

 

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