DES MOINES — Another eight people, all older adults, have died from influenza in Iowa, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Five of those deaths were in central Iowa, two in southwest Iowa and one in eastern Iowa, according to an IDPH report released Friday. Five of the eight had an underlying health condition that contributed to the death.
The death in eastern Iowa was identified as a male over the age of 81 years old.
Those eight bring the total number of fatalities attributed to flu to 14 since Oct. 1, 2017, or what the department considers the beginning of the flu season. The average age was 85.
The most common type of flu strain seen in the lab is influenza A-H3N2, which the department says “typically causes serious illnesses, hospitalizations and even death,” especially for very young and very old people as well as those with weakened immune systems.
Protecting older populations is top of mind for places like Western Home Communities in Cedar Falls. One of their buildings, Windhaven Assisted Living Center on South Main Street, has had flu protocols in place since Jan. 6 after five flu cases were confirmed among their residents, said Western Home spokesperson Linda Bowman.
“When you’re dealing with something like that, you don’t want it to spread,” Bowman said. “Of course we know that older adults can be hit harder, so we want to do everything we can to protect them and we also want to protect our employees.”
Those protocols include employees wearing masks, and visitors being asked to postpone visits or to wear masks as well. Since those protocols were put into place, Bowman said, no new cases were reported in Windhaven.
“It seems like it worked, which is great,” she said.
Not many flu cases have happened at NewAldaya Lifescapes in Cedar Falls, so employees are using regular protocols — wearing masks if they have cold symptoms and staying home if their symptoms are more severe, said Millisa Tierney, spokesperson for NewAldaya.
“Right now, we’re not seeing a great amount of flu within the resident population, but we know this is a risky time as the flu starts to spread,” she said.
Iowa joined most other states in declaring the flu “widespread” across the state in the last week of 2017.
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IDPH medical director and state epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk said there was still time to get a flu shot, which generally keeps the flu virus at bay or lessens the symptoms.
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“We will very likely continue to see the flu for months,” Quinlisk said in the release.
Influenza is a respiratory illness, and symptoms come on suddenly and can include fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, coughing or sore throat and nasal congestion. It typically lasts two to seven days in otherwise healthy people.