Flu season just ahead; shots in short supply


— It may be time buy a half-gallon of orange juice and start popping echinacea pills, because cold and flu seasons are right around the corner and flu shots will be in short supply.
Steamboat Medical Center saw more people with cold symptoms than normal last week. Doctors saw many sore throats, stuffy noses and fevers, nurse manager Rebecca Weaver said.
"I think the weather change brought it out a little bit," she said.
When the weather gets cold, the body works to stay warm, putting a dent in its defenses, Weaver said. Also, the recent moisture has brought on some allergy symptoms, which will break down immune systems and make sufferers more vulnerable to a cold.
"We're mostly seeing viral infections," she said.
However, all tests have shown that no cases of the flu has been reported, indicating that the annual flu season has yet to hit Steamboat.
That's a good thing because Weaver isn't expecting to see flu vaccinations become available until November.
A spokesperson at the University of Colorado's pharmacy said it could be as late as the middle of November or December.
Sheila Beckless at the Visiting Nurse Association said when supplies of the vaccination do come, they won't be very high.
"We're not going to get very much so it will be high-risk people who will receive the vaccination," she said.
"This has been an on going struggle since the middle of the summer," Routt County Public Health Nurse Patsy Ford said. "There are two reasons this is happening."
One is because two of the companies that develop the vaccination are under investigation by federal health officials, which has slowed down production.
The other reason is that the one flu strain that the vaccination works on didn't develop as fast as normal, Ford said.
When a flu vaccination is made, it protects against three different types of flu. Those strains are grown in the laboratories so vaccinations can be developed to fight them. But one strain didn't grow as fast as normal, slowing down the whole production, Ford said.
Influenza kills 40,000 people each year and costs Americans $12 billion a year in lost work days and medical expenses, according to information from the Outreach Program at University Hospital in Denver. That makes flu the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, greater than the ninth-rated HIV.
The people who die tend to be over 65 or have heart and lung problems. A healthy person who is infected by the virus can expect to be plagued by chills, fever, muscle aches and cough and will miss an average of three days of work.
Ford hopes to see the vaccination by November and the VNA will advertise flu shots when it does arrive.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net


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