IOWA CITY — Doctors say the flu has been particularly virulent this year, resulting in more severe cases requiring specialized treatment.
“We’ve treating many flu patients in the (intensive care unit),” Dr. Loreen Herwaldt, hospital epidemiologist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said Friday.
Three people have died as a result of influenza this season, including a young boy that Herwaldt said died at UIHC. State officials had previously released information about the otherwise healthy boy’s death, but declined to identify the boy or say where he lived.
The two other patients who died were categorized as “high risk,” which includes extremely overweight people, pregnant women and the very young and old.
Influenza has complicated other conditions, which have led to additional deaths at the hospital. UIHC treats some of the worst cases of the flu from around the state, and some patients are flown in during very late stages, Herwaldt said.
“We have patients hospitalized every winter with influenza, but this is more significant than we usually see,” she said.
The best defense to protect against the main strain of flu this winter, H1N1, remains the flu shot, public health officials say. According to Herwaldt, the shot is 65 percent effective and can significantly cut down on symptoms even if one gets the flu.
“I always get a flu shot,” Hazel Capps, a resident at Windmill Manor in Coralville, said Friday. The facility specializes in nursing and rehabilitation care for seniors. Capps, who turns 103 next week, said she has never gotten the flu because of her habit of seeking the vaccination every winter.
Since senior citizens are at high risk of contracting serious flu symptoms, staff at Windmill Manor said they to take a proactive approach to flu season.
“We encourage all the staff to get a flu shot,” said Stacey Cremeens, administrator of the facility. “We also offer flu shots to all of our residents.”
Cremeens said the facility has not had any issues with the flu this winter, which she credits to their flu suppression techniques.
Flu season is expected to continue through March. There are no signs that severe cases of the flu in Eastern Iowa are slowing down.
“We don’t know if we’ve reached our peak or not,” Herwaldt said. “It doesn’t seem to be letting up.”