Influenza is active in Cass County

January 5, 2018

For Immediate Release

ATLANTIC – Cass County Health System officials are informing the public today that there have been multiple cases of influenza (flu) positively identified in community members over the last few days, bringing the total to 34 cases of Influenza A and two cases of Influenza B identified over the past two weeks.  Affected patients range from 0 to 99 years of age.  CCHS staff are encouraging everyone to exercise precautions to avoid contracting influenza and to contact their medical provider immediately if they experience symptoms.

“Influenza is a serious respiratory illness that can progress rapidly,” noted Dr. Todd Bean, Chief Medical Officer.  “It is important to use good hygiene practices to avoid contracting influenza if possible, and to seek medical treatment if you think you may have the flu.”  People most at risk to develop complications from influenza include children under age 2, those over age 65, pregnant women and people with multiple health conditions or suppressed immune systems. Dr. Bean notes that true influenza is different than what people often refer to as stomach flu.  Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by a virus.  Antibiotics will be ineffective unless a secondary infection such as pneumonia develops as a consequence of contracting influenza.  Influenza symptoms usually come on very quickly and may include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and body aches.

Dr. Bean notes that it is important to seek medical treatment quickly if you experience a sudden onset of influenza symptoms.  “The good news is that we have medications that can reduce both the symptoms and the length of an influenza illness.  However, it is most effective if the medications are started with 48 hours from when a patient begins to feel ill.”

Of course, prevention is always the best medicine.  Flu vaccine is available at Atlantic Medical Center, and there is still time for it to be effective this year.  No appointment is necessary.  The vaccine is available in the Atlantic Medical Center Immunization Room from 8:30 – 11:00 am and 1:30 – 4 pm Monday – Friday, and 8:30 am – 11:00 am Saturday.  Vaccination helps to protect not just those who are vaccinated, but also the babies under 6 months of age and others who are medically unable to receive the vaccine.  “I know there has been some concern that the vaccine this year is not as effective as in some years,” Dr. Bean said.  “No vaccine stops 100% of disease, but even if it doesn’t prevent the flu it will likely reduce the severity if you should become ill.”  Flu vaccination is still the best way to prevent flu illness and serious complications.  It prevents millions of illnesses and tens of thousands of hospitalization each year.  A 2017 study published in Pediatrics shows that flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from influenza.

Influenza is spread by droplets which are distributed when infected people cough and sneeze.  People with the flu or flu-like symptoms should not go to work, school, or other public places, including visiting hospitals and nursing homes.  Everyone should practice good health habits:  wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; cover coughs and sneezes; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with your hands; and avoid close contact with people that are sick.

Cass County Health System limits visitors to inpatients during flu season, asking anyone with flu-like symptoms to stay home. Parents are asked to not bring young children and infants to visit hospital patients throughout the flu season, typically until the end of March. Children are a particularly vulnerable group—as are the elderly—and it increases the child’s risk of exposure, as well as the risk of exposure to patients. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, there were four influenza-related deaths in Iowa reported on January 5, making a total of six deaths since October 2017.  The average age of those individuals was 86; three were reported to have had underlying conditions or other contributing factors.