Influenza has claimed two lives in Northwest Colorado this month, but reports of new cases are on the decline, according to the Visiting Nurse Association.
The two people who died were elderly men with existing cardiac and respiratory health problems that the flu worsened, said Northwest Colorado VNA public health nurse manager Susan Bowler. One was an 88-year-old Routt County resident, and the other a 67-year-old Moffat County resident.
"The elderly are at a greater risk, especially if they have health problems," Bowler said. "But the elderly are certainly not the only ones at risk for problems from the flu."
Flu vaccine, which helps protect against Type A and Type B influenza strains, is available in the area, Bowler said, but the VNA is rationing the vaccine, providing it only to people older than 50 or people with existing health problems.
Private medical offices and physicians are offering the vaccine to anyone, but "the Public Health Department and the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) made requests to prioritize who we give our vaccine to," Bowler said.
Since the end of November, 47 Routt County residents had passed through the emergency room doors of Yampa Valley Medical Center and tested positive for influenza Type A, which is the most aggressive virus and results in more severe illnesses, according to the CDC. More cases of the flu surely have occurred in Routt County, Bowler said. "There were a ton more that were treated privately," Bowler said.
Still, the number of reported cases in Routt County and throughout Colorado gradually is declining, according to a press release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
A total of 1,528 confirmed cases of the flu were reported to the CDPHE for the seven-day period from Dec. 14 to Dec. 20, showing a slight decline from 1,579 cases reported the week before and a large decrease from 2,913 reported cases from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6.
"It appears that the increase in the number of flu cases peaked during the first week of December and that Colorado should continue to register weekly decreases," Douglass Benevento, executive director of the CDPHE, said in a prepared statement.
As of Saturday, 10,707 cases of the flu have been reported in Colorado. The main concern is that many of the cases reported were in children, who are more susceptible to serious symptoms than some adults, Bowler said.
Four children have died in Colorado because of the virus. With that in mind, many parents go to the doctor as soon as they hear a sniffle. Now, if those families want flu shots, they will have to go somewhere other than the VNA.