H1N1 remains rare in county | SteamboatToday.com

H1N1 remains rare in county

Flu hospitalizations still are infrequent

Zach Fridell

The number of hospitalizations resulting from the H1N1 flu virus has remained low in Routt County, with only two confirmed cases of the virus from Aug. 30 to Dec. 12.

At the same time, the availability of the H1N1 flu vaccine has increased, and it is now available to anyone who wants it.

"In Routt County, it really wasn't that bad," said Bob Struble, Routt County emergency management director.

Struble has been in constant contact with public health workers in the county in case of a larger outbreak, but he said that it has not been an issue.

"We're just monitoring it on basically a daily basis through public health and waiting to see what this winter brings, if it brings a third wave of it," he said.

Statewide, 1,914 people were hospitalized with H1N1 from Aug. 30 to Dec. 12. This strain of the virus has disproportionately affected children younger than 6 months old, according to data from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

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Suzi Mariano, spokeswoman for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, said that since the vaccination shots became available to the public, her office has seen a steady stream of patients. She said there also has been a decrease in the number of reported cases but it may not remain low.

"We see a weekly report on influenza-like illness in the county, and it has steadily declined," she said. "That doesn't mean there can't be a spike. Seasonal flu goes in waves up and down."

Mariano said there is no data to show when the spikes typically happen in Routt County, but it is possible that as more visitors come into town and the town gets busier, there will be more cases of

the flu. She said she has seen a variety of people come in to get shots but that some people older than 65 were objecting.

"When the vaccine first came out, there was a lot of discussion about groups over the age of 65 being in the last group to get the shot" because they might have been exposed to the virus earlier in their lives and did not need the shot as much, she said.

Now that the vaccine is readily available, though, Mariano said the VNA, the public health organization for the county, is encouraging everyone to get the shot.

"Everyone can get the virus," she said.

The VNA will hold drop-in clinics Thursday, Dec. 31 and Jan. 7, 14, 21 and 28. Mariano said retail pharmacies in town also would begin getting shipments of the vaccine this week. There are no longer age restrictions on who can get the shot.

Visiting restrictions remain in place at Yampa Valley Medical Center to combat the spread of flu, spokeswoman Christine McKelvie said. Since Oct. 21, visitors younger than 12 years old and anyone showing signs of being ill have been banned from the inpatient, day surgery and sports medicine areas of the hospital. There is an exception for the family birthing center, but visitors might be asked to wear a mask while they are in the hospital.

"We are keeping our visitor restrictions in place here at the hospital through the week after Christmas, and we will assess then if we feel we need to continue them for longer or if we can ease them," McKelvie said.

H1N1 clinics

The Steamboat Springs office of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association will hold drop-in H1N1 vaccination clinics for all ages at the VNA offices, 940 Central Park Drive, Suite 101, on these dates:

■ Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon

■ Dec. 31, 9 a.m. to noon

■ Jan. 7, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

■ Jan. 14, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

■ Jan. 21, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

■ Jan. 28, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

VNA spokeswoman Suzi Mariano said H1N1 vaccination shots should be available at retail pharmacies starting this week but that the number of doses and time of availability weren’t immediately available.

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