New flu strain in Iowa raises some concerns - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New flu strain in Iowa raises some concerns

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

A new strain of the flu virus is starting to pop up in Iowa and other states.  It's called H3N2, and so far, three cases of the virus have been spotted in Iowa children. 

H3N2 has popped up a few times in the past.  But then, it was found in patients who had contact with animals.  Now, the virus appears to be spreading from human to human, raising concerns that it could become more widespread.

Doctors are starting to see some patients with flu-like symptoms this year.  And now, they're on the lookout for a new flu strain, H3N2.  Its symptoms are just like any other flu virus and so far have been fairly mild.

"There were no complications or severe illnesses reported from this new novel strain that has been identified," said Bruce Meisinger with the Black Hawk County Health Department.

But just like the 2009 H1N1 flu, there's a looming concern that the new flu strain could mutate and become more dangerous.

"There's always that possibility.  And disease surveillance and public health will continue to monitor this very closely.  But at this point in time, it doesn't seem to be anything more severe than a mild to moderate form of influenza," Meisinger said.

The good news is, this year's flu shot offers some protection.  H3N2 is a combination of the human, bird, swine, and H1N1 viruses.  One of those, H1N1, is included in this year's vaccine. But beyond getting the shot, health officials remind you to keep up healthy practices to avoid getting sick.

"Remember, cover your cough and wash your hands regularly," said Meisinger.

So far, local hospitals and clinics are not seeing a spike in flu cases.  Fewer than a half dozen patients have been diagnosed with flu at area hospitals in the past two months.  Upper respiratory illnesses with severe coughs are more common right now.

The new H3N2 flu strain typically lasts between two and seven days.  CDC officials say this strain will likely not spread like the 2009 swine flu.  However, a candidate vaccine has been produced and sent to manufacturers just in case.  And if the strain is prevalent this year, it will likely be included in the seasonal flu shot next year.

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