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flu shots

It's not too late to get a flu shot, experts say. It typically takes the body two to four weeks to build immunity to the flu vaccine.

Flu cases in Iowa are on the rise, and the Quad-Cities is no exception.

Iowa State Epidemiologist and Public Health Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati said Monday the state has seen an increase in general flu activity, and have now reached the highest level, "widespread."

Unlike other diseases, the state of Iowa measures general flu activity. Other diseases are measured on a case-by-case basis, but the variety of ways flu is reported made the state change the way it's tracked. For example, the state looks at influenza tests reported, or done at the public health labs.

“That helps contribute to and inform the overall understanding of viruses in the U.S. and eventually what’s chosen for the vaccine," Pedati said.

The state also looks at doctors diagnosing flu without a specific test, and outbreaks of flu in places like long-term care facilities and schools.

"We do that so we can kind of take all of that information together and come up with what we think is the relative activity of influenza in Iowa," she said.

Flu cases are a slightly fewer than this time last year. Pedati said more people received the flu vaccine.

There have been three flu deaths in Iowa this year, all adults, either elderly or with underlying conditions. No pediatric deaths have been reported. 

Rock Island County has one flu-related death and three investigations, less than last year at this time.

"Last year was pretty bad. Sometimes the vaccine just doesn't match what strains are going around because they have to guess. It's an educated guess, but they have to look at Australia and other places who have a flu season opposite ours," said Janet Hill, Rock Island County Health Department chief operating officer.

Illinois also is considered to have widespread flu activitiy.

It is not too late to be vaccinated, Pedati said. Both Pedati and Hill recommended the three Cs.

"Clean, cover, contain. You want to wash your hands often, you want to wash them for at least 20 seconds with soap and water," Hill said, adding an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good secondary option and better than nothing. "You want to cover your cough... cough into the crook of your arm and not your hands because you spread it easier with shaking hands and touching doorknobs. And then you want to contain it by staying home when you're sick." 

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