The strong return of the flu in January has officials wondering when this season will peak.
Reports from the associated press said during the last week of December, at least 151 people were hospitalized for complications from influenza during Iowa. In Minnesota, over 900 people have been hospitalized due to flu complications. Patricia Quinlisk, department medical director with the Iowa department of public health, said Monday that such a number of flu incidents show "all the hallmarks of a relatively bad an prolonged flu season." She also expressed concern that children returning to school after winter break could help spread the disease.
Hamilton County public health administrator Shelby Kroona said the county is right on pace with everywhere else in the country.
"We're seeing increasing numbers of influenza on a daily basis," Kroona said.
The Iowa department of public health lists 79 hospitalizations associated with influenza for the central region of Iowa, which includes Hamitlon County, according to the latest weekly activity report released in late December.
Kroona said mid to late February is usually the peak of flu season. She said health officials thought the peak may have been early after Christmas. However, there continue to be cases of influenza reported. Kroona said the Minnesota department of public health reported that drought conditions may help the spread of flu. During a drought, the dry air allows influenza to travel further in coughs and sneezes and to stay airborne longer. Typically in higher humidity, those influenza germs would fall faster to the ground.
With the uncertainty of when the peak of the flu season will come, Kroona said now is the time to get a flu shot if someone has yet to do so. The immunization takes about two weeks to build up antibodies in one's body. Kroona said that the strain of flu that health officials are seeing is not entirely covered in the vaccine. However, she said that the flu vaccine can still lessen symptoms of the disease.
Vigorous hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes are two ways Kroona said help people control the spread of the flu. She said people with a fever of 99 degrees or higher should stay home until they are fever free for 24 hours. People can still transmit the flu in that daylong period after they recover from a fever.
Those looking to get a flu vaccine can contact Hamilton County public health to schedule an appointment. Kroona said that appointments are required because public health does not have vaccines on location but can still acquire vaccines. Public health began moving into its new facility at 820 James St. in Webster City on Wednesday. Kroona said the new facility will be opened on Jan. 22.