Almost 1,300 Coloradans Hospitalized For Flu
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared this week that flu and pneumonia deaths have reached “epidemic” levels for the year – and Colorado is no different.
Almost 1,300 people in Colorado have been hospitalized for the flu so far this season. Two children have died. These numbers are not the worst in the nation, but they continue to climb. In order to reach an epidemic threshold, flu and pneumonia deaths must account for 6.8 percent of the total nationwide fatalities according to the CDC.
Dr. Adrienne LeBailly, Larimer County’s public health director said seniors are especially susceptible to the H3N2 strain, which is dominant this flu season.
"The median age for the current outbreak in Larimer county is about 72.… You always mount the strongest response to the influenza strain that were circulating the very first time you were infected," she said. "So elderly people relatively do pretty well in an H1N1 year, they don’t do well in a H3N2 year."
There have been 124 hospitalizations in Larimer County.
Health officials say this may be the worst flu season for Colorado in the past decade.
"I think it’s a combination of the two things. One that there is a vaccine mismatch issue, but then also it’s a year where you’re going to see a lot of hospitalizations in people who are elderly," said Dr. LeBailly.
"Flu viruses can be spread by people with no symptoms."
Health officials warn that even though the current flu strain has diverged from the vaccine strain, getting a flu shot will help.
But what about those people who can’t get the shot?
A new option for hospitalized patients was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Rapivab is the first antiviral treatment for influenza that can be given intravenously. People who are extremely ill frequently can’t take oral medications or the nasal mist, so they haven’t been able to get the flu shot in any form. It’s unclear as to exactly when Rapivab will be on the market.
The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older - including pregnant women - receive an annual flu vaccine.
Flu viruses can be spread by people with no symptoms, so frequently washing your hands is important.