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Despite early start to season, Siouxland flu numbers remain average
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Influenza in Siouxland

Despite early start to season, Siouxland flu numbers remain average

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Flu vaccine

Flu vaccine is shown in a refrigerator at Siouxland District Health in Sioux City, Iowa.

SIOUX CITY -- With an estimated 2,400 deaths reported in November, the U.S. flu season is off to its earliest start in years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Last month, the CDC reported that 1.2 million people went to their doctors with the virus and as many as 29,000 people were hospitalized for influenza.

While cases have been seen throughout the country, the flu is widespread in 16 states (Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia), the CDC said.

However, Tyler Brock, deputy director of Siouxland District Health, has not noticed any uptick in flu cases locally.

Flu vaccine

Amber Hunwardsen, a public health nurse, displays a vial of flu vaccine at Siouxland District Health in Sioux City.

"At least in Siouxland, it's been a pretty average year," he said. "We'll have a better idea in January and February, which is typically when we see the most cases of flu."

Flu is a contagious respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses. It can run the gamut from mild to severe to, even, deadly in the most extreme cases.

While they are both respiratory illnesses, a common cold differs from the flu. Colds are generally milder than the flu and we experience the symptoms more gradually.

Shots for adults stretch beyond annual flu vaccine

People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffed nose while flu sufferers can experience things like a fever, aches, pains, and chills, according to officials.

Brock said the best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get vaccinated.

Everybody who is six months or older should get a flu shot because it reduces the risk of having to see a doctor due to the flu by 40 to 60 percent, the CDC said.

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Samaritan Hospital
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Hospital at 28th and Jennings streets
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St. Joseph Hospital
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St. Joseph's
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St. John's Hospital

"People think if they don't get a flu shot right away in October, it won't do any good," Brock explained. "You can still get a flu shot in January or later."

Which is why people continue to make appointments for flu shots at Siouxland District Health throughout flu season.

Still, the people who benefit the most from vaccinations are young children or people, age 65 or older.

Like Brock, Carol Garvey has not seen an increase in flu locally. That hasn't stopped the Registered Nurse at Morningside College from reminding her students to be mindful of flu-like symptoms.

Tyler Brock

Brock

"Sometimes I feel like a broken record but I'm always asking have you gotten your flu shot yet?" she said with a chuckle. "Plus I'm always reminding students to wash their hands in order to prevent being infected by flu viruses." 

Garvey also recommended staying away from sick people, which she admitted is easier said than done.

Brock echoes Garvey's advice of washing your hands frequently. He also suggested you not touch your nose, mouth and eyes to prevent introducing a flu virus into your body.

Even though Siouxland has not yet seen a bump in influenza reports, Brock said he'll have a better idea in the next month or two.

"There are many ways to prevent getting the flu," he said. "But nothing is more effective than getting vaccinated and there is still time for that."

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