VNA flu shots still available

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— Despite fears of a shortage of the flu vaccine for this winter season, hundreds of doses are still available to the public from the Visiting Nurse Association.

Initial concerns about the shortage of flu shots for Routt County proved somewhat premature, as the demand never challenged the supply of shots available.

The VNA received 2,000 doses of the vaccine, only about 1,700 of which have been administered, said Patsy Ford, a public health nurse for the VNA. And if those are used up, the VNA can still order more doses, Ford said.

Initially, the VNA vaccinated only high-risk patients, including people older than 65, asthma and multiple sclerosis sufferers and health care workers. The VNA was administering about 100 shots of the vaccine every day in October, Ford said. The shot costs $10.

Yampa Valley Medical Center vaccinated 71 percent of the hospital staff, said Bonnie Boylan, a spokeswoman for the medical center.

Although the medical center has diagnosed only one case of the flu this winter season, private doctors also are dealing with flu patients, Boylan said.

As of this time last winter, the hospital also had diagnosed only one case, Boylan said.

The flu season often comes later in the winter season as more tourists arrive, bringing bugs from other areas with them, Ford said.

"We really haven't hit the point where the flu starts spreading, but it will," Ford cautioned.

Ford said that the height of the season often hits the county in January or February.

The stomach flu, said Ford, is not really "the flu." The flu, which attacks the respiratory system, can progress into pneumonia or other serious respiratory illnesses to the point where it becomes life-threatening, 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.

The people who die tend to be older than 65 or have heart and lung problems. A healthy person who is infected by the virus can expect to be plagued by chills, high fever, muscle aches and a cough and will miss an average of three days of work.

The VNA had been worried about a lack of flu shots this winter because two of the companies that make the vaccine were being investigated by the Food and Drug Administration and would not be able to produce it this winter, Ford said.

On top of that, one of the different strains of the flu virus didn't grow as fast as it normally does, causing delays in the production of the vaccine.

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