Flu season ramping up in Routt County | SteamboatToday.com

Flu season ramping up in Routt County

Teresa Ristow

The Centers for Disease Control recommends only injectable flu vaccines this season, not nasal flu mists.

— As the winter flu season intensifies, local medical providers are telling residents it's not too late to get a flu vaccine.

"We're certainly active, but we don't have a sense that the season has peaked quite yet," said Dr. Brian Harrington, of Yampa Valley Medical Associates.

Harrington said last week he'd noticed an uptick in flu cases in December, many involving visitors to the area and locals who had recently returned from a trip.

"As a tourist town, most 'bugs' in the U.S. find their way to Steamboat," Harrington said.

While many flu shot clinics are typically held in the fall, Harrington said it isn't too late in early January to get a shot to protect against flu for the remainder of flu season.

So far this season, Harrington said his office has seen mostly type A influenza, which is typical for the early season.

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This year's three-component flu vaccine protects against two type A viruses — a 2009 H1N1-like strain and a 2014 H3N2-like strain — and one type B virus, a 2008-like strain.

Four-component vaccines also protect against a 2013-like B virus.

Harrington said type B viruses typically peak in February, though he acknowledged that, in general, the peak of flu season is different each year.

This year, the Centers for Disease Control recommends only injectable vaccines rather than a nasal spray vaccine, citing a lack of evidence supporting the flu mist's effectiveness during the 2016-17 flu season.

Harrington said he wouldn't rule out the possibility that the flu mist could be used in future years, but added he did notice that many people who came down with the flu last year said they had received the mist vaccine.

Because the mist contained an altered flu virus that replicated internally, it was thought to be beneficial for children, who have fewer flu-fighting antibodies due to their age, Harrington said.

"It's possible that, in future years, it's going to come back and be more effective," he said.

Despite the uptick in flu cases in recent weeks, Routt County has yet to have a flu-related hospitalization as of the end of December, according to Northwest Colorado Health, and only nine positive flu tests were administered at Yampa Valley Medical Center this flu season.

"It's not too late to get a flu shot," said Beth Watson, a public health nurse at Northwest Colorado Health. "If one does get sick, flu vaccination may make the illness milder and reduce the number of work days or school days missed due to illness."

Watson said while flu activity is typically highest from December to February, cases can stretch into May in some years.

For those who do come down with the flu, Watson advised seeking medical advice and anti-viral medication to help ease symptoms.

“Call your healthcare provider if you develop symptoms," Watson said. "Don't just tough it out."

Flu shots are available at most local doctor's offices, pharmacies, Yampa Valley Medical Center and Northwest Colorado Health.

Harrington said an interesting change this year is that the Centers for Disease Control has relaxed its recommendations regarding whether people with egg allergies can receive a flu vaccine.

It is now recommended that people with egg allergies who have reacted with hives in the past should receive a flu vaccine. Those who've experienced more severe egg allergy reactions could also get the vaccine, but should check with their doctor for details.

To make an appointment at Northwest Colorado Health, call 970-879-1632. Costs vary, and low-cost options are available to those without insurance.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow