- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The number of Iowans hospitalized for flu complications has more than doubled in recent weeks, and senior citizens are being hit especially hard, according to a new report from Iowa health officials.

The report released Friday by the Iowa Department of Public Health says more than half of Iowans being hospitalized for the flu are 65 or older, The Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/1wyYYfS ).

Through Dec. 13, 65 Iowans were hospitalized for the flu at a set of hospitals monitored by the department, the report says. That was up from 50 the previous week, and 26 the week before that.

Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the department’s medical director, said the Type A H3N2 is the most common strain of the virus hitting the state and said there have been several recent outbreaks in nursing homes and schools. She recommended people take special care to try to prevent the spread to susceptible people.

“If you or your family members aren’t well, then it’s probably not a good time to go visit Grandma or Grandpa in the nursing home,” she said.

Public health officials continue to urge people to obtain flu shots or nasal sprays, even though this season’s flu vaccine may not be as effective.

Flu is one of the nation’s most deadly diseases.

Sandy Peno, a nurse epidemiologist for UnityPoint Health-Des Moines, said her hospitals have seen a surge of hospitalizations for flu in the past two or three weeks. Many of the patients are older people who also have chronic health issues, such as lung ailments, that make them particularly susceptible to flu complications, she said.

Jeff Brock, an infectious-disease pharmacist at Des Moines’ Mercy Medical Center, said his hospital admitted 22 flu patients last week, nearly triple the number from two weeks earlier.

Those patients, too, have been mostly elderly, Brock said. Senior citizens who experience fever, chills and body aches should seek medical help quickly, he said.

“If you’re young and healthy, generally you can wait,” Brock said.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com


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