Iowa hospital officials warn: alarming flu numbers still on the - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa hospital officials warn: alarming flu numbers still on the rise

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BLACK HAWK COUNTY (KWWL) -

The flu virus has blanketed the nation, and it hasn't skipped over Iowa.

Hospitals and clinics are not required to report cases of the flu to the Department of Public Health because the flu virus is not a reportable illness.

However, the Department of Public Health has implemented the "Iowa Influenza Surveillance Network" or IISN. Certain clinics, labs, hospitals and schools across the state provide the network with weekly statistics of flu trends.

"The flu is out there, so you should do what you can to prevent yourself from getting the flu because it's in the community, all over the state and all over the United States," said Kaitlin Emrich, Disease Surveillance Program Manager at the Black Hawk County Health Department.

Emrich said, "We actually are finding that this year some people, because last season was a milder season, some people are choosing not to get their influenza shots, and then they're getting ill. So the demand for getting your flu shot is going up right now because people are realizing that it's been a little stronger of a flu season."

The Black Hawk County Health Department reported a "good match" of the flu vaccination and the strains of the virus present in the community.

Statistics with the department indicate the vaccination is 60-85 percent effective in preventing the flu.

According to Sarah Corrizo, spokesperson for St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids, approximately 1,035 tests have been completed for influenza since November. Of those, Corrizo said 155 were positive.

Corrizo said flu cases are higher than they've been in the past several years.

Jim Waterbury, spokesperson for Allen Hospital in Waterloo, said the hospital has been averaging about 20 patients each day in the emergency room with flu or flu-like symptoms.

A spokesperson for Dubuque's Finley Hospital, Sue Chapman, said their hospital has been close to capacity, or at capacity, since December 25, 2012. Chapman said they had no exact number for flu numbers cases, but that beds are mostly full due to patients with the flu or upper respiratory illnesses.

The University of Iowa Hospital reported a 5-10 percent increase in flu cases as compared to last year, according to a spokesperson. 

Augusta Sires with Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare said their health system has seen a fair number of cases of the flu this season.

Sires said the flu vaccine is still available and people can call the following number to set up an appointment: 1-319-272-5000. Sires said the Home Health department can also provide flu shots; those appointments can be made by calling the same number.

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