Health briefs: Flu cases in Colorado are on the rise

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Following a December surge in hospitalizations for influenza, state health officials are reminding residents that it’s not too late to get vaccinated. The number of flu hospitalizations this season jumped to 448, compared to 373 at this time last year, according to a news release.

“The surge in hospitalizations due to flu is concerning,” said Dr. Lisa Miller, state epidemiologist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We normally see higher flu numbers among the young and elderly, but this year there are more cases among people ages 25 to 64. We encourage anyone who hasn’t been immunized this year to get a flu vaccination now.”

Last year, people ages 25 to 64 accounted for 30 percent of all cases; right now those people make up 57 percent of all cases.

Although Colorado doesn’t formally track flu deaths among adults, thousands of people in the U.S. die every year because of the flu.

The best way to protect yourself is to get immunized. It takes about two weeks after the vaccination for your body to build the antibodies to protect you from flu. State health officials also encourage you to avoid the flu by

• Washing your hands frequently;

• Coughing and sneezing into the crook of your arm, rather than uncovered or in your hand;

• Avoiding people with respiratory illness;

• Staying home from work or school when sick, returning only after a fever has subsided for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medication.

Everyone 6 months of age and older should receive a flu vaccine. People at high risk of serious complications from seasonal influenza include those 65 years and older, children younger than five years, pregnant women and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions.

Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association continues to hold weekly drop-in clinics through January. For a complete list of clinics call the VNA Flu Hotline at 970-871-7624 or go to www.nwcovna.org/flu.php.

For more information on Colorado immunizations, go to facebook.com/immunizeCO and twitter.com/ImmunizeCO.

Health insurance marketplace meetings scheduled

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association is hosting a series of free information sessions to answer questions about the new health insurance marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado. A health coverage guide will attend the meetings for individuals, families and small-business owners interested in learning about their options for health insurance under new the legislation. The meeting dates are as follows:

• LIFT-UP of Routt County: 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 6, 13 and 20

• Bud Werner Memorial Library: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Jan. 10, 17 and 24

• Yampa Valley Medical Center, Room 3: 9 to 11 a.m. Jan. 10

• Yampa Valley Medical Center, Room 2 and 3: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13

For more information, call 970-871-7647.

Free events at Natural Grocers this month

Natural Grocers will be hosting free events in January.

At 5:30 p.m. Jan. 9, nutritionist Alicia McLeog will present "Cravings, Weigh Gain and Blood Sugar Rollercoaster." And on Jan. 20, a cooking demo with Grady Turner called "Food Beginnings" will be held at 4:30 p.m. The event is free for children ages 4 to 8, but children must be accompanied by their parents.

Natural Grocers is located at 335 Lincoln Ave.

HPV vaccine offered through VNA

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Protect yourself or your family from cancers caused by HPV for just $21.50 for uninsured and underinsured individuals. The HPV vaccine is for ages 9 to 26 for males and females.

Call Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association in Craig at 970-824-8233 or in Steamboat Springs at 970-879-1632 to make an appointment.

Support groups this week across Routt County

• A bereavement support group meets from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday at Rollingstone Respite House. The group is open to anyone grieving the loss of a loved one. Call 970-871-7628 prior to attending your first meeting.

• A Christian support group for parents of children have been called home by God is at 6:30 p.m. Monday at 27441 Brandon Circle. For more information, call 970-870-7879.

• A domestic violence support group for women is from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesdays at Advocates Building Peaceful Communities. Call Diane at 970-879-2034 before attending.

• A depression, anxiety and bipolar support group meets from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in Conference Room 2 at Yampa Valley Medical Center, 1024 Central Park Drive. The group provides support, education and tools to help with everyday life. Family and friends are welcome. Call 970-819-6751 for more information.

VNA reminds about health problems with secondhand, thirdhand smoke

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association reminds residents that secondhand smoke and thirdhand smoke (tobacco residue in carpet, clothes, cars, etc.) can cause serious health problems in children, nonsmoking adults and pets, including cancer, heart disease and asthma. There are multiple support options to help smokers protect themselves and their loved ones from potentially fatal illnesses.

The Colorado QuitLine offers free personalized cessation phone support for smokers. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association offers counseling with a tobacco cessation specialist in Steamboat Springs or Craig. There is no cost for the service. To speak with a counselor, call 970-871-7634.

Text message program helps young smokers quit tobacco

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association reminds young adult smokers that a free text message program is available to help them quit tobacco. SmokefreeTXT is a mobile service providing encouragement and tips to help young smokers quit for good. Quitting tobacco usually takes multiple attempts, but studies show support, including text message programs, can significantly improve a person’s chance for success. There is no additional fee for this service. However, message and data rates may apply based on a user’s text message plan. Users can control the number of messages they receive. To sign up, text QUIT to IQUIT (47848) or go to www.smokefree.gov. The service is available in English and Spanish.

Whooping cough cases surge in Colorado in October

Responding to a recent surge in cases of whooping cough, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association is reminding Coloradans to make sure they are up to date on vaccinations. The Tdap vaccine is recommended for:

• Children ages 7 to 10 who are not fully immunized with the childhood DTaP vaccine series

• Adolescents ages 11 and 12

• Adults who never have received a Tdap vaccine

• Women at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy

• Parents and caregivers of infants younger than 12 months, including grandparents, babysitters and child care workers

• Health care workers

• Others who plan to have close contact with an infant

The Tdap vaccine can be received at all VNA flu clinics or from a private medical provider. For a list of flu clinics, call 970-871-7624 or go to www.nwcovna.org/flu.php.

Veterans with health are through VA don't need to take additional steps

Veterans who are enrolled in Department of Veterans Affairs health care programs — including the veterans health care program, the Civilian Health and Medical program or the spina bifida health care program — do not need to take additional steps to meet the Affordable Care Act coverage standards, according to a news release from the VA.

The new health care law will not change VA health benefits or out-of-pocket costs for those who are enrolled, according to the release. Veterans who are not enrolled in VA health care can apply at www.va.gov/healthbenefits or by calling 1-877-222-8387.

For more information, call Routt County Veterans Affairs Officer Michael Condie at 970-879-5489.

Yampa Valley Medical Center celebrates 100 years of heritage with book

Yampa Valley Medical Center will celebrate 100 years of hospital heritage with the publication of a history book in 2014, according to a news release. Christine McKelvie is researching and writing the book that will highlight 10 decades of medical care at the Steamboat Sanitarium, the Steamboat Hospital, Routt County Memorial Hospital and YVMC.

"Our hospitals have long been the heartbeat of the valley, and we owe much to the dedicated people who have provided a century of care to this community and region," McKelvie said in the release. "This book will tell their stories."

If you have an historic hospital photo or memory you would like to share, send an email to christine.mckelvie@yvmc.org or call 970-870-1119.

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