Flu hospitalizations up across Colorado, but there’s still time to get a flu shot
Colorado’s flu season is off to an active start
- Individuals 65 years and older.
- Children under 5 years old (especially younger than 2 years old).
- Pregnant women (and women up to 2 weeks post-partum).
- Residents of nursing homes or long term care facilities.
- Alaskan natives and American Indians seem to have a higher risk of complications.
- Those with chronic medical issues including but not limited to COPD, asthma, blood disorders, kidney disease, liver disorders, cardiac disorders, neurological or developmental disorders, diabetes or other endocrine disorders, any disorder which suppresses immune function (HIV, cancer, etc), extreme obesity.
There have been more than 850 hospitalizations due to influenza in Colorado this season, about eight times the normal amount by this time of year.
Anyone older than 6 months should get a flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While flu season began in October — the month when doctors typically recommend getting a flu shot — it’s not too late to get vaccinated now. Flu season can last as late as May, but the peak period is between December and February.
The flu shot is formulated each year to fight the latest strains of the virus. Of the 32 outbreaks associated with influenza for the 2017-18 flu season in Colorado, 31 outbreaks were associated with influenza A and one outbreak was associated with influenza B, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Anyone showing signs of the flu should see their doctor as soon as possible for one of two antiviral drugs — Tamiflu and Relenza. The CDC reports that when those drugs are received within a day or two, they can reduce the length and severity of the flu.
The flu might mimic symptoms of the common cold at first — a sore throat, runny nose and sneezing are common — but the Mayo Clinic reports that the flu comes on faster and last longer. While the flu, a viral infection, often resolves on its own in most people, it can be deadly for some.
Those at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu include children younger than 5 years old, and especially those under 2 years old, adults older than 65, residents of nursing homes or other care facilities, pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum, people with weakened immune systems, people with chronic illnesses and people who are very obese with a body mass index of 40 or higher.
Memorial Regional Health reminds parents to take children in to see a doctor if they exhibit flu symptoms. It’s also recommended that children get a flu shot every season.
According to Memorial Regional Health, babies can’t blow their own noses and need help clearing their airways during bouts of colds and flu.
“That’s where the TMH Suction Clinic comes in. The clinic is open 24/7 and parents can bring their child up to four times a day for a week with a single prescription from their doctor,” according to Memorial Regional Health’s website. “Respiratory therapists use a nasopharyngeal suction machine to suck out secretions. Therapists also evaluate your child’s respiratory rate and oxygen saturation. Patients check in at the emergency department main desk. Cost is $128 per visit.”
The flu causes thousands of deaths per year in the United States — the most frequent cause of death from a vaccine-preventable disease, according to the Immunization Action Coalition.
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions, a flu vaccination reduced their risk of death by 51 percent. In healthy children, the risk of death was reduced by 65 percent.
“The study findings underscore the importance of the recommendation by CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics that all children 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine,” according to the report, published in the Journal Pediatrics.
Colorado has more sunny days than most states regardless of the season, but Memorial Day weekend marks the start of sunny summertime.