Public health officials in Iowa are pushing the public to get flu shots when the flu season heats up.

"It's been mild so far," said Hiroyuki Suzuki at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics for Infectious Diseases. "There are only nine reported cases in Iowa, so it's a very good timing for people to get the flu vaccine."

Johnson County Public Health Clinical Services Manager Kate Klefstad said in a press release that a flu shot was one the best ways to protect themselves and their loved ones.

"The strains of the vaccine change annually to meet what is most likely to circulate during the season, so it is important to get the flu shot every year," Klefstad

said The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends receiving flu vaccines by the end of October. Influenza, or the flu, is an infectious respiratory disease caused by a virus.

The CDC reported 80,000 people died of the flu last year, according to an interview with the Associated Press. It is considered to be the highest death rate in 40 years since the CDC began to estimate the flu mortality.

Public health officials recommend anyone who is six months or older to get the flu vaccine before the seasonal flu spreads. Public clinics and several sites in the Iowa City area will offer vaccines by appointment or walkability until December.

"It is really important to vaccinate people who are very old, very young, or pregnant," said Jorge Luis Salinas, UI's hospital physician and clinic epidemiologist. "Vaccination is more important in people who have a weakened immune system." 19659009] Jacob Riley, health care disease prevention specialist, said the number of influenza cases is not recorded at the district or city level, but only at the state level.

Iowa experienced an increase in influenza-associated hospital admissions last year compared to previous years. According to weekly reports of the end of the flu season last year, from October 2017 to May 2018, a total of 1,890 hospitalizations were recorded.

Suzuki said there were 427 confirmed cases at UI Hospitals & Clinics last year, more than the typical average of about 300 per year. He added that the severity of the cases was similar to previous years.

"The flu activity in Iowa is currently considered low and sporadic this year, but it's very early in the season," Riley said.

Because it takes about two weeks after a vaccine until the body produces enough antibodies to the flu, the authorities say it's important that people do not hesitate to get their vaccine.

As influenza viruses change each year, the composition of the vaccine is updated every year.

"The vaccine is expected to be better this year," Suzuki said.

Riley said earlier this year that there are some additional changes in terms of preparations for the flu season. People with allergies to eggs can now receive any recommended flu vaccine, the recommended age range for some vaccines has been extended to younger children and the FluMist can be re-administered to those who qualify.

Possible side effects of the vaccine include headache or muscle aches, which disappear after one or two days.

Johnson County Public Health recommends not only vaccination, but also hands washing, coughing, and keeping their germs at home when they are ill. But the vaccine remains most effective, experts say.

"People should not be persuaded by reports of lower vaccine efficacy," Salinas said. "Overall, vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu."

Flu Shot Services:

Johnson County Public Health Department

Call 319-356-6042 for more information on clinics and walk-in times.

Visiting Nurse Association

The Clinic for Influenza and Pneumonia can be found here. Locations include schools in Iowa City.

University of Iowa Health Care

Information on walk-in clinics can be found here.

Local Pharmacies

CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens also offer scheduled appointment and walk-in vaccinations.

Reach Hillary Ojeda at 319-339-7345, [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @hillarymojeda

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