Flu season underway in Colorado; few cases locally | SteamboatToday.com

Flu season underway in Colorado; few cases locally

Teresa Ristow

— Flu season is ramping up in Colorado, with the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics showing increased influenza activity across the state.

The most current state report includes data through Nov. 29 and shows that nearly all cases in the state are an H3 strand of the virus.

Statistics are based on reporting by hospitals and aren’t comprehensive, but trends in the data reveal that flu cases picked up in mid- to late November.

Few cases have been reported in Routt County, and no hospitalizations have occurred at Yampa Valley Medical Center, according to Paul Hill, laboratory section head and infection prevention coordinator at YVMC.

Hill said a few patients have visited the emergency department for the flu, and a few others have been referred to YVMC from primary care physicians for flulike symptoms.

"None of these have resulted in hospitalization," Hill said.

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The CDC reports that flu is now considered widespread in several states including Colorado, Hill said. Reports on the flu typically lag by a few weeks, he said.

There could be more than just a few cases in the region because not all people experiencing symptoms are tested for the virus, according to Amy Knights, public health nurse coordinator for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

"A lot of times we don't know about all of them," Knights said.

The most recently Colorado Flu Report weekly update reported 57 new hospitalizations in Colorado from the week of Nov. 23 to 29, including 34 from that week and 23 late reports added to the previous week's stats.

Since monitoring of flu season began Sept. 28, there have been 95 hospitalizations in the state for influenza-associated reasons.

Knights said she knew of five deaths across the country so far during this flu season.

She recommended getting a vaccine for the flu regardless of if the person is part of a susceptible population.

"Even if you don't get the flu, it's important to get the flu vaccine," she said.

Although the vaccine doesn't work against this year's common H3 strain, other strains are protected against and the vaccine still is useful, Knights said.

The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months or older, citing documented benefits including reduced illnesses and doctor visits, and less missed work or school.

Young children and the elderly are most susceptible to the contagious respiratory illness that can cause a fever, cough, sore throat, running or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue, or any combination of the symptoms.

Drop-in flu shot clinics sponsored by the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursdays at the Steamboat Springs VNA office, 940 Central Park Drive, Suite 101.

Clinics at the Craig VNA will take place from 8:30 a.m. to noon Tuesday and every Thursday from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., 745 Russell St.

Appointments also are available at other times by calling the flu hotline at 970-871-7624.

Insurance will be processed for children and adults that bring their insurance cards.

The cost of a flu shot for uninsured adults and children or for children's FluMist is $21.50.

Shots also are available at Walgreens, Safeway, City Market, Walmart and Lyon Drug Store.

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