Clinics gear up for flu season |

Clinics gear up for flu season

Paul Shockley

With area pediatricians gearing up for flu season vaccinations, medical experts say this past summer of fire and continued drought is all the more incentive to get the annual fall inoculation.

“We’ve had quite an insult to our lungs over the summer,” said Dr. Steve Ross, a pediatrician who divides his time between Steamboat Springs and Craig’s Northwest Health Specialists Center.

All those fire-bred airborne pollutants make people more susceptible to flu, particularly smokers or those with upper respiratory conditions, he said.

Ross said he has ordered 5,000 flu vaccinations, with more possibly on the way, as he prepares to start giving the shots in mid-October.

Still, while doctors say their primary targets remain the elderly and those who have respiratory ailments, some new thinking on flu shots and toddlers has peaked interest in medical circles.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has reportedly revised long-standing conclusions regarding toddlers’ flu shots; now, all children between six months and 23 months should receive the vaccine, not just children in that age group with diagnosed respiratory problems.

“They’re only recommendations,” said Susan Bowler, public health nurse manager at Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

The baby shot one-half dose, followed a month later by an identical shot is encouraged, Bowler said.

The problem, she said, comes when children aren’t brought back for that second shot, leaving the child with about 70 to 80 percent of the protection of the double-dose, Ross estimated.

Toddlers’ lungs are smaller and unable to cough out the crud that adults can, he said.

“It provides a false sense of security,” Bowler said of the initial dose.

“There are a large number of people concerned that they are giving shots for everything,” she said.

Children under two, according to CDC research, are just as likely to be hospitalized with flu complications, as are people who are 65 or older.

“If you looked at the statistics here, it wouldn’t be the case,” Bowler said.

Bowler said roughly 25 percent of the flu cases requiring hospitalization locally are children.

Still, she said, her primary focus remains on the elderly and those with heart and lung ailments a “high-risk” group running a greater chance of death from the bug.

Starting Oct. 21, Bowler and her staff will start visiting area nursing homes, while walk-in vaccinations for all will begin Oct. 28.

In November, the VNA will be at local grocery stores on Saturdays to give shots. Dates have yet to be set, Bowler said.

Walk-in flu shots are given without appointment on a first-come, first-served basis. The shot costs $15.

For those flu-shot slackers, Bowler notes that the shot is changed annually, upon CDC recommendations, to target three different types of viruses.

While people can’t guard against everything, the shot is at least a start, backed up by the CDC’s best guess as to which viruses are likely to cause problems in a given year, she said.

“There are hundreds of viruses out there at anytime,” Bowler said.

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