Respiratory Illnesses

With the increase of respiratory illnesses circulating throughout Polk County, Iowa and the United States, our medical community is being impacted by seeing high levels of illness. We encourage everyone to be aware of this increase in illness and to take prevention steps to keep your family healthy.

The following illnesses are actively circulating in the community:

  • RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States. There is no vaccine to prevent RSV, however, there are prevention measures to reduce the spread. For more information regarding RSV, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
  • Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Some people, such as people 65 years and older, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at higher risk of serious flu complications. There are two main types of influenza (flu) viruses: types A and B. The best way to reduce the risk of flu and its potentially serious complications is by getting vaccinated each year. For more information regarding the flu, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
  • COVID-19 is very contagious and most often causes respiratory symptoms that can feel much like a cold, a flu, or pneumonia. COVID-19 may attack more than your lungs and respiratory system. COVID-19 variants continue to circulate throughout our community causing increased illness. The best way to prevent yourself and loved ones from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated and receive boosters on time. For more information regarding COVID-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
  • We are also seeing an increase of common colds, strep throat and other illnesses caused by viruses such as rotavirus, enterovirus, adenoviruses.

To prevent the spread of illnesses, we encourage the following tips:

  • Wash hands over with running water and soap for at least 20 seconds. If soap is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue. If a tissue is not available, cover them with your upper shirt sleeve. Do not use your hand, but if you do, wash your hand immediately.
  • Clean frequently used surfaces in your home with a disinfectant. This includes items such as doorknobs, remote controls, toilet handles and countertops.
  • Stay up-to-date on vaccines and boosters.
  • If you have received a positive illness diagnosis from a medical provider, please follow their medical guidance on prevention and treatment.
  • Make sure your child stays home from school and other activities if they have a fever, cough, congestion, runny nose or sore throat until they are fever free for 24 hours without medications that reduce fever.
  • When you or your child is sick, it is good to avoid social events and activities until you are well.
  • When you are sick, it is best to stay away from pregnant women, people 65 years and older, young children, and people with certain health conditions, who are at higher risk of serious health complications if they become ill.
  • Wearing a mask is also another option to prevent the spread of illness.


Know Where to go for Care

For non-urgent health concerns, call your primary care provider first, and consider virtual care as an option. When you have an illness or injury that is not life threatening but still requires fast attention, find an urgent or walk-in clinic near you. This can include infections like influenza, sore throat, sprains or minor cuts and burns. 


UnityPoint Health – Des Moines

MercyOne Des Moines

Broadlawns Medical Center

The Iowa Clinic

Primary Health Care

When to seek emergency care: For serious or life-threatening health issues, call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately. This can include chest pain or heart attack symptoms, sudden or severe head pain, loss of consciousness, poisoning, uncontrolled fever or other potentially life-threatening conditions.


We urge everyone to practice good hygiene and use healthcare resources appropriately right now. Please continue to help keep Polk County healthy!

As of Monday, January 23, our Flu, Mpox, and COVID-19 Clinic Schedule changed. Appointments are available on Thursdays and Fridays from 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM.