Flu hitting Clay County worse than previous year
Avera Medical Group of Spencer has noticed a significant increase in reported flu cases compared to last year.
"The flu virus has hit Clay County more already than last year," Avera nurse manager Marilyn Ullman said. "This is from December of last year. We had four confirmed cases of flu. This year in December we had 20 confirmed cases. January of last year we had 28 confirmed cases. So far in January of this year, we have had 94 confirmed cases. There are probably a lot of others who were ill and not tested."
Avera Medical Group Family Medicine physician Matthew Humpil said he first started seeing flu diagnoses in December. He said the cold weather exacerbates the spread of the flu.
"The flu virus is a virus that is more stable in cold weather, but also, probably even more so, the flu gets people staying inside and closing up their houses," Humpil said. "That is something where people are together more, less outside."
The Iowa Influenza Surveillance Network rated the geographic spread of influenza across Iowa for the week ending in Jan. 13, as widespread. A widespread rating means outbreaks of influenza or increases in recent laboratory-confirmed influenza in at least half the regions of the state.
Humpil said influenza types A and B have both been diagnosed at Avera this year. He added type A is typically considered the worse of the two.
Ullman said to her knowledge there have been no outbreaks at schools or nursing homes in Clay County. Nursing homes in the area are not restricting visitors.
"The worst complication that people fear with the flu is pneumonia," Humpil said. "Influenza itself can cause pneumonia, or it can set you up for another microorganism to cause pneumonia. That is the biggest one that people worry about because pneumonia can be something that is dangerous in the elderly."
Some of the hallmarks of the flu are coughs, high fevers, body aches and sneezing. Humpil said Avera has found a substantial number of cold viruses mimicking the flu.
"There are enough cold viruses going around that mimic the flu or that have symptoms as bad as the flu," Humpil said. "So we have seen plenty of people come in with symptoms. We test them for flu and they are negative. It is probably one of the worst cold viruses out there causing it."
Humpil emphasized the importance of receiving the flu shot.
"Even though the vaccination hasn't been as good this year as it was in previous years, people need to understand the symptoms are less severe when you have had the flu vaccination," Humpil said. "Even if you do contract the flu, with the flu vaccination, you are probably going to have a shorter course and an easier time with it."
Wiping your nose, coughing into your hands and sneezing are some of the most common ways to spread the flu virus. Doctors recommend covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, washing your hands often and thoroughly and staying home from school or work when you are ill.