OTTUMWA — Lynelle Diers, Wapello County Public Health clinical director, said while coronavirus is making headlines residents should be more concerned about influenza.

“We’ve had more cases of influenza [in Southeast Iowa] than last year,” Diers said.

No matter how many people catch the flu, coronavirus or other illnesses, Diers said the approach should be no different.

“If you’re sick stay home — that’s number one,” she said, “because you are shedding the virus through droplets, which means when you’re coughing, anyone in a six feet radius becomes exposed and potentially may contract the virus from you. So it’s really important you stay home and you stay away from other people.”

Viruses are classified into subtypes, she said. “It’s in genetics, as far as symptomatology it’s the all the same symptoms,” she explained. “It’s just different in how they test them.”

If a person has influenza, any family members living inside the home should clean everyday objects such as doorknobs, refrigerators, remote controls, stoves, and keyboards. “Anything that’s commonly touched, they need to be clean because the virus can stay alive on objects for several hours,” she said.

“Cover your cough,” she added, “and do not cover your cough with your hand, if you put it on your head and then you touch, then you’ve got the virus on everything else, so you cover your cough with your elbow or into your clothing that’s not commonly touched by other people.”

Going out with influenza, Diers said, can make a person stay sick for a longer period of time. She said a healthy person can have influenza for up to a period of two weeks, while an adult with health issues can be ill longer.

A flu shot can also help with the illness. “Now if you’ve had your flu shot, you may get the influenza,” she said, “but you won’t be sick as long as anybody else that did not get the shot. I’ve seen people bounce back in about three to five days because they had their influenza shot. They don’t become as ill as somebody who has not had their shot.”

To schedule a flu shot appointment or for more health tips contact Diers at 641-682-5434. Influenza reports can be found on IDPH’s website.

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

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