Flu season starts off mild

CLINTON — Local health officials are seeing a milder influenza season compared to the “high severity” cases they saw last year.

Genesis Health Systems Community Health Manager Michele Cullen said last week that a lower number of “classic respiratory-related influenza” diagnoses have come from Clinton County so far this year compared to last, but that a slight uptick in influenza cases has been reported in recent weeks.

Influenza, not to be confused with a stomach flu or bug, preys on those with vulnerable immune systems, such as young children or the elderly, Cullen said.

At the first sign of symptoms such as a fever and persistent cough or sore throat, Cullen urges potential victims to be proactive.

“The classic influenza is often mislabeled by people, and its severity isn’t recognized until it’s too late in some cases,” Cullen said. “If someone isn’t feeling well, we try to encourage them to stay home from work or school for at least 24 hours after the fever has subsided. You’re still contagious up until then.”

The Associated Press last week reported Iowa’s first influenza-related death of the 2018-2019 season occurred in an unspecified location in eastern Iowa. According to the report, the victim was a man between the ages of 41 and 60, with underlying conditions that affected how the virus attacked.

Cullen says the influenza cases in the eastern part of the state appear to be “in a pretty localized cluster,” with the holiday season showing health officials an increase in cases — though nowhere near last year.

To keep those numbers down, Cullen said simple tasks such as regularly washing your hands and disinfecting household or office belongings can cut down on the potential for the virus to attack you and those around you.

On top of that, a quick trip to the doctor to get the influenza vaccination can prevent a much longer, more uncomfortable hospital visit later in the season.

“So many of the statistics you see come from those who guess it’s just an innocent cough or cold, and then it gets too severe and ends up lasting for weeks,” Cullen said. “Prevention and precautions are what we try to spread. Those who are eligible for vaccinations, get vaccinated. There are a lot of viruses out there.”