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 Flu, COVID and RSV

Heather Rasmussen is the Chief Quality and Ancillary Services Officer at Crawford County Memorial Hospital.

“You’d hope by the time spring comes around that we wouldn’t have to worry about the flu season anymore. For people in Denison and Crawford County, the flu season typically peaks in February. Flu season can go into March, and in the past we’ve had flu cases into June. This year, it certainly looks like a lot of the RSV and coronavirus (COVID) has peaked for the year, but flu has not.”

Rasmussen noted the historical data would have the flu ending in March or shortly into April.

“We started seeing some flu in December, which is typical. Then, there’s Christmas, people gathering for holidays which can cause a spike in cases. But it’s really February where it starts to peak. By March, people are getting tired of it, and they want it over with. What’s interesting to me about the flu data is the fact that, we saw a late start this year to flu, but once it got rolling, it really got rolling and it started out with influenza A, and now it looks like influenza A is beginning to wane, but influenza B is really taking off.”

Acknowledging the flu shot is not 100 percent effective, Rasmussen said receiving a flu shot will help ameliorate the systems of the virus.

“If you get the flu after you have the flu shot, the flu typically isn’t as severe as it would have been if you hadn’t had a flu shot. And that’s something that I noticed this year. We track the flu shots that we give at CCMH. The vast majority of the influenza that we’ve had come through, the patients haven’t had a flu shot. So that in itself, I think, speaks volumes. When you get the flu shot, it takes about two weeks for you to build up that immunity. But that’s why it’s a seasonal vaccine because the immunity kind of wanes over a period of time.”

Iowa data appears to reflect a significant increase in flu deaths this year in the state. Rasmussen says the increased death rate could be due to a lack of vaccinations.

“The one thing that sticks out to me is our influenza vaccination rates. In 2020, it seemed like everybody got a flu vaccination because we were worried about COVID at the time, and everybody got a flu shot. But since then, we have seen our flu vaccination rates, as well as other vaccination rates, dwindle. This year is the lowest I’ve seen our influenza vaccination rates over the past 15 years. Whether that has a correlation or a tie, we can’t know for certain, but it’s certainly something that sticks in my head.”

While influenza has been on the rise over the past couple of months, Rasmussen noted COVID and RSV cases were not as prevalent as many thought they might be.

“Every week I get information from the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services about influenza and COVID cases. Right now, influenza is at moderate and COVID is low. And COVID’s been low for a little while now. Granted, we’ve had some admissions, but it definitely wasn’t the beast that I think everybody thought it would be. We did see some child RSV admissions and we saw some adult RSV admissions. But that is, for the most part, a wintertime disease and we’ve seen cases of RSV fall off pretty dramatically.”

Rasmussen says respiratory diseases are highly preventable and the precautions are very simple.

“It’s just hand hygiene. Washing your hands is easy to do. Everybody knows how to do it. We just need to be cognizant and wash our hands. Respiratory hygiene, if you have a sneeze or cough, cough into the corner of your elbow. If you cough into a tissue, throw that tissue away and wash your hands. Stay at home if you’re sick. Don’t go to work and infect everybody else. We just need to be reminded that we can do simple things to protect ourselves and others around us.”

From a vaccination perspective, Rasmussen shared that, in addition to flu, COVID, and RSV, there are other diseases that can be prevented, especially in older Iowans.

“Shingles and pneumonia are other vaccinations. The shingles virus can lead to a very painful disease. If you’ve had chickenpox, the shingles virus is already inside of you. It can lie dormant for many years until stress, or another disease, triggers the shingles virus. Anybody 50 and older can take the shingles vaccine to help prevent shingles. Pneumonia primarily affects infants and small children, but older adults are at the greatest risk of serious illness and death. The pneumonia vaccine is available to small children, people of any age with certain medical conditions, and anyone who is 65 years or age or older. Again, getting vaccinated is all about protecting ourselves and those around us.”

Rasmussen recommends contacting the CCMH Medical Clinic at 712-265-2700 to learn more about viruses and vaccinations.

“If anybody has a question about vaccinations, call the clinic. We have Michael DeLong, who is our immunization specialist. He is well versed on the vaccinations. He is happy to talk to anybody who has questions.”



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