Flu season gets an early start in state

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It's the time of year when kids start coughing, foreheads feel hot, and bodies ache.

It's flu season.

Two flu cases have been confirmed at The Memorial Hospital. Eighty-nine cases have been confirmed on the Front Range, according to the Associated Press. And the peak of flu season isn't even until the second week of January.

Because of Craig's close proximity to tourist destinations, such as Steamboat Springs, Dr. Thomas Told, county health officer, said the community is at greater risk than other parts of the country.

"Due to the rapidity of travel with planes, viruses can skip the distance barrier and be here in days," Told said.

That's why it's so important that people get flu shots and practice good hygienic habits.

Craig community members have begun taking steps to prevent the flu. Moffat Family Clinic has administered more than 300 flu shots. The Visiting Nurse Association administered 100 shots Friday and on Saturday at Kmart, 75 shots were administered, said Susan Bowler of the VNA.

Most of those vaccinations were for adults but Bowler said the VNA has recently seen an influx of children getting the shot.

That's good news, because young children often act as a reservoir for the virus. Told recommends infants of six months of age and older receive vaccinations.

People 65 years of age and older also need to be vaccinated because the flu poses a greater risk to their health than to younger people.

"At that age, people are more likely to develop complications, such as pneumonia and dehydration, need hospitalization, and even die," said Dr. Allan Reishus of Moffat Family Clinic.

In the event that someone can't get a flu shot because of another illness, everyone else in the person's household should be vaccinated so the chances of flu exposure are decreased, Told said.

For those who hate shots, a nasal flu vaccine that is sniffed up the nose is available this year. Told said most of Craig's clinics have the nasal vaccine. But it costs between $60 and $80, as opposed to $15 to $20 for a shot.

Flu shots also decrease the chances of catching SARS, if one were to be exposed to that virus, Told said.

Flu symptoms include dry cough, fever, and body aches.

Beka Warren, infection control officer at TMH, said patients complaining of vomiting and diarrhea have been coming to the emergency room complaining of flu. These symptoms are often confused with flu but because flu is an upper respiratory illness, these ailments are symptoms of intestinal and digestive disorders.

For those who haven't had a flu shot, the best way to keep from catching or spreading the virus is to practice the tried and true methods of washing one's hands often and covering one's mouth when coughing.

"The flu germ has a sticky surface, so if you breathe it in a public place, you're going to get it," Warren said.

She said it helps to avoid standing in front of anyone who is coughing but if one must stand in front of a coughing person, keep at least three feet away.

Once someone has the flu, there are medications that will decrease the severity of the flu, if the disease is caught in the first day or two, Reishus said. Those infected with flu should stay home from work or school to avoid spreading the sickness.

Once someone has caught the flu, the illness usually lasts seven to 10 miserable days. Flu season usually runs into spring, but rarely lasts past April, Told said.

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