CLIVE, Iowa -- Flu cases are spiking all over the country, and hospitals are having to put in a lot of extra work to keep up with all the incoming cases. At one point, patients at Mercy West Urgent Care were being told they'd have to wait approximately an hour to be seen.
The flu is considered "regional" here in Iowa, but six people have died from it this season including four just since October. According to the Iowa Influenza Surveillance Network, the regional designation in Iowa is one step down from being considered "widespread." The latest statistics from the end of December show there are seven schools in the state with greater than 10% absence due to illness.
“Most of the complaints we have this time of year are illness, I would say a majority of us, that's what we're seeing, and specifically flu because it tends to make you feel worse than some other illnesses,” said Dr. Erin Nettland.
Dr. Nettland has been working quickly, trying to see and treat as many patients as she can in her walk-in clinic, and she believes flu season is probably going to get worse.
“Well we're just now starting to see the ramp up where we're starting to see more people. Last year it was a little worse between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we're starting to see that influx right now,” she said.
Dr. Nettland said the best way to prevent the flu is to get the vaccine.
“But if they haven't had a chance to get a flu shot yet they still have time, certainly we're able to get them one. Wash their hands a lot, if they are sick they should stay home, stay away from other people to avoid giving germs, and stay away from work and school,” she said.
Dr. Nettland said it's important to recognize the symptoms of the flu early on; these include a fast onset of severe aches, fever, and sore throat. If the illness is caught within the first 48-72 hours, doctors have anti-vials they can give to help shorten the sickness.
“It stops the viral replication, so it stops the virus from increasing in the body, and if you can stop that you can improve your symptoms much more quickly,” said Dr. Nettland.
Dr. Nettland also said once you start to improve, it's important to closely monitor yourself. If you get better and then quickly get worse, you may have gotten a bacterial infection from a lowered immune system, in which point you should see a physician as soon as possible.