Steamboat Springs High School nurse Sally Borgerding checks the temperature of senior Mikenzie Ochs on Thursday afternoon. Ochs was recovering from a bout with the flu, and Borgerding likes to keep tabs on students throughout the recovery process.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs High School nurse Sally Borgerding checks the temperature of senior Mikenzie Ochs on Thursday afternoon. Ochs was recovering from a bout with the flu, and Borgerding likes to keep tabs on students throughout the recovery process.

Cases of flu prevalent in Routt County

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What you need to know about the flu

Get vaccinated

Vaccination is recommended for the following people:

• children ages 6 months to 4 years

• people with chronic health conditions (asthma, chronic pulmonary diseases, significant heart disease, sickle cell anemia, neurologic conditions that compromise respiratory function and people with a suppressed immune system)

• women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant

• American Indians/Alaska Natives

• people who are morbidly obese

• residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities

• health care professionals

• caregivers of children younger than 5 or adults 50 and older

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association offers drop-in clinics from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursdays at 940 Central Park Drive, Suite 101. Adult flu shots are $25 and children's flu shots/FluMist are $14 or less. Flu shots also are available by appointment. For more information, call 970-871-7624.

Symptoms

Fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

When to seek care

For children:

• fast breathing or trouble breathing

• bluish skin color

• not drinking enough fluids

• not waking up or not interacting

• being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

• flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worsened cough

• fever with a rash

For adults:

• difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

• pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

• sudden dizziness

• confusion

• severe or persistent vomiting

Protect yourself

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

• If you are sick with a flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)

• While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

For more information about the flu, call the COHELP line at 877-462-2911.

Sources: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect the correct number of residents that contracted the flu at the Doak Walker Care Center.

Routt County has not been immune from a flu season that nationwide is shaping up to be worse than average.

“I don’t know when I last saw this volume of people,” said Dr. Rosanne Iversen, who has practiced medicine in Steamboat Springs since 1992. “It certainly feels more intense this year.”

At Iversen’s office, Steamboat Springs Family Medicine, the staff has been keeping an informal tally of flu cases since the first one was confirmed Dec. 12.

“Early January was crazy, and over the holidays it was crazy,” Iversen said. “It hit us hard.”

On some days, four or five cases of flu were confirmed. Halfway into the flu season, Iversen said her office has noticed that cases already have peaked. Since Jan. 17, her office has had only eight diagnoses. The bad news, though, is that sometimes the flu can have two peaks.

“Maybe this is the calm before the storm,” Iversen said.

Between the first week of October and Jan. 19, there have been 789 people hospitalized with the flu in Colorado, and four children have died from the flu, according to Janice Poirot, public health nurse with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. Last year, 543 people were hospitalized with the flu in Colorado throughout the flu season. No children died from the flu last year. The number of adults who die from the flu is not tracked.

Statewide, Poirot said, state health officials have not seen a decrease in flu cases that would signify a peak. She said cases of the flu in Colorado started climbing steeply the second week of December.

The flu vaccine administered this season has been a good match for the flu viruses out there, Poirot said. It is not too late to get the shot, and Poirot said it is important to keep the flu from spreading to the most vulnerable populations, including the elderly and children.

“It’s not just about you,” Poirot said. “It’s about the people around you.”

People 65 and older have accounted for 40 percent of flu cases in Colorado.

“It is hitting our elderly very hard,” Poirot said.

Yampa Valley Medical Center microbiology supervisor and Laboratory Assistant Director Paul Hill estimated there have been 30 to 50 cases of the flu confirmed at the hospital this season. Most of those cases were people who had come to the emergency room with flu-like symptoms.

“It is looking like it is going to be a higher-than-average year,” Hill said.

Hill said flu cases at the hospital peaked from Dec. 16 to Jan. 13. He said the peak could be attributed to the influx of people in Steamboat during the holidays.

Hill said only one person had been admitted to YVMC with the flu. Iversen said she was aware of several people who had been hospitalized because of complications caused by the flu.

Hospital spokeswoman Rosie Kern said that three Doak Walker Care Center residents came down with the flu during the first week of January and that the residents now are fine. To keep the flu from spreading at Doak Walker, meals were delivered to the residents in their rooms. Visits from schoolchildren were suspended, and visitors were asked to not visit.

“They got it under control,” Kern said.

This week at schools in the Steamboat Springs School District, nurse Sally Borgerding said, more than 200 students are being seen each day, many with signs of illness, including cough, fever, sore throat and body aches. Nurses at the schools will refer children with flu symptoms to their doctors.

Borgerding said they encourage parents to keep their children home if they have a temperature above 100 degrees, body aches, chills and cough.

In addition to the vaccine, hand washing is the best way to prevent getting the flu, Borgerding said. She recommended people wash their hands with soap and water for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” two times.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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