Influenza or flu may be a common disease, but it remains deadly. Iowa health officials reported the viral illness already claimed its first child death for the 2018–2019 season.

The details are scant. The state didn't mention the name, age, and location of the child. The weekly report, however, shared it was not the only flu-related death in Iowa. Overall, there were five deaths.

Widespread Flu In Iowa

The data, published for the week ending Feb. 23, 2019, revealed influenza activity increased during the period.

"The geographic spread of influenza in Iowa is widespread," it further said.

At least three flu strains are in the state. These are A(H3), A(H1N1) pdm09, and influenza B viruses from the Yamagata lineage. Two tested samples resulted in positive with no reported subtype. Of the strains, A(H3) has the most number of positives at 22 followed by A(H1N1)pdm09 at 18.

The previous reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the current flu season is milder than the past year. However, it still affects millions of Americans across the country.

By the second week of January, about 6.2 million people reported flu illnesses. Nearly 3 million had already visited healthcare facilities.

In Iowa, outpatient visits for week 8 already reached 2.29 percent, which was higher than its baseline of 1.6 percent. The actual numbers may also be understated due to the report's coverage.

Fighting The Virus

The number of flu deaths may pale in comparison to that of the Spanish flu, but the viral disease still kills thousands, especially those who belong to the high-risk groups such as children.

In the 2017 winter alone, 80,000 people died mainly due to complications like pneumonia. It was the highest figure ever recorded over the last 40 years. On average, the condition claims 12,000 annually.

Many factors can lead to flu outbreaks. The virus can spread quickly, particularly in closed spaces such as schools. It can also thrive in many types of surfaces.

The flu virus is also complicated. It can mutate over time while the various strains can have different levels of health impact. It can hide from the immune system, allowing it to replicate before the body detects it.

Scientists are working on killer immune cells that may provide permanent protection against three flu strains. A study published in Science revealed a potentially more effective flu drug.

For now, health officials recommend the flu vaccine as the first line of defense. It doesn't have a 100 percent effective rate, but it can increase the body's fighting chance against the virus.

Those who are sick with the flu can boost their immune system with medications, plenty of rest, and more fluids. They may also need to stay away from crowds to avoid spreading the disease.

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