Big season for flu in state and Routt County

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— With an increase in the number of flu cases, Routt County residents are being urged to wash their hands frequently, avoid being around sick people and to get vaccinated.

“We’re definitely seeing a very high increase in influenza in the county, for sure,” said Steve Hilley, a nurse and Yampa Valley Medical Center’s infection preventionist.

Hilley said one person has been hospitalized at YVMC with the flu. That occurred last week and the person stayed overnight.

YVMC spokeswoman Rosie Kern said another person possibly was going to be admitted Thursday or Friday with the flu.

Each week at the YVMC emergency room, four or five tests have come back positive for the flu, Hilley said. He said physicians and private medical practices also have seen an increase this year in the number of people infected with the virus.

Between Nov. 30 and Jan. 4, there have been 748 flu hospitalizations from 45 Colorado counties, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The high number of flu cases was concerning in December when the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment counted 448 cases, compared to 373 during the same time in 2012.

“The surge in hospitalizations due to flu is concerning,” state epidemiologist Dr. Lisa Miller said in a press release. “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.”

Hilley also urged residents to get immunized.

“By no means is it 100 percent, but it’s the best we have in the prevention of influenza,” Hilley said.

Flu shots are available from doctors and even grocery store pharmacies.

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association in Steamboat offers flu shots Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at its office at 940 Central Park Drive, Suite 101. People can make appointments for other times, too, by calling 970-879-1632.

The shot does not cost anything for those who have health insurance.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, it takes about two weeks after the vaccination for the body to build the antibodies to protect from flu.

Hilley said another way people can protect themselves is to stay away from people who are sick and to wash hands frequently. The virus is spread through droplets from sneezing and coughing.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment advises people who do get sick to stay home from work or school and to only return after a fever has subsided for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medication.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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