Flu outbreak may be on its way to Craig

The flu virus is alive and spreading in Steamboat Springs and could very well be coming this way.

According to Rebecca Weaver, registered nurse at the Steamboat Medical Center, around 36 cases of influenza have been reported since Monday. Marilyn Bouldin, a public health nurse with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association (VNA), reported no cases diagnosed in Moffat County. But that is not to say the area is out of the water.

"Influenza is transmitted as easy as any virus out there," Weaver said.

The Steamboat Medical Center offers a testing device that can confirm the virus. According to Weaver, this test is called the Flu Optical Immuno Assay (Flu OIA) and is taken through a nasal or throat swab. Results of the test are known within 20 minutes. It costs $25.

According to Bouldin, this test differs from previous tests. In the past, influenza was diagnosed based on symptoms. This test helps make accurate readings and potential influenza victims can be tested as soon as they feel any sort of symptom.

Medical professionals agree early detection is key to overcoming the virus.

"If detected between 24 and 48 hours, the medicine works much better," Weaver said. "The sooner they get in the better."

So instead of receiving the flu as a gift this Christmas, follow some precautions.

Get a flu shot. The shot is almost 90 percent effective in fending off the virus. And for those who get the shot and still receive the flu, the medication will work even better.

"With a shot, symptoms will be less severe and medicine will be more effective," Weaver said.

The shot works by injecting strands of the flu virus into the body. According to Weaver, the flu shot being given in the area is the strand of influenza that people are catching. These shots are still available in Steamboat at the Medical Center and the VNA.

Other precautions include:

Wash your hands. "The single most effective thing to do is to wash your hands a lot," Bouldin said.

Wash equipment often that is used by different people.

Get enough rest.

Eat properly.

Monitor stress levels.

"Live a healthy lifestyle," according to Bouldin.

Colorado has officially diagnosed 402 cases of the flu this year.

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