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Health

Colorado Has Yet to Hit 'Peak Flu'

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Carol E. Davis
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The number of flu cases is beginning to tick up in Colorado. In the latest report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 12 people have been hospitalized for influenza since reporting began in Oct. 2015. The previous two seasons were moderately severe, so this slow start is welcomed by health officials.

“We really can’t say a whole lot about why the flu season does what it does,” said state epidemiologist Lisa Miller.“Last year [2014] we had a relatively early and severe flu season.”

“We are seeing similar flu strains circulate this year so it’s not that these strains are weaker or different,” she said.“They are the same strains that circulated last year and they are also strains that are covered by the vaccine. There’s just a lot about flu that we can’t predict.”

The 2014/2015 season saw 3,397 hospitalized cases reported in 56 counties around the state and six pediatric deaths. It was particularly hard on people over the age of 65, who accounted for nearly 60 percent of the hospitalizations reported.

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Credit Colorado Department of Public Health And Environment
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Colorado Department of Public Health And Environment

“That is a good thing about a slow start to the flu season. It means that people still have time to get vaccinated. I definitely recommend that if people get vaccinated now, because it takes a couple weeks for the flu vaccine to become effective.”

Because of the slower start, Miller said the season may peak in January. Health officials can’t say for sure how effective the flu vaccine is yet.

“…but based on what we know about the viruses circulating and what we know about the strains that are included in the vaccine it should be a pretty good match.”

The vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. People over the age of 65 and the very young are particularly at risk for severe outcomes due to flu.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children aged 6 months through 8 years get two doses of flu vaccine, at least one month apart, the first year they are vaccinated against flu. The first dose “primes” the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection, according to a new study.

According to the CDC’s website:

Children younger than 5 – especially those younger than 2 years old – are at high risk of serious flu complications. It is estimated that more than 20,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized due to flu complications each year in the United States.

For older people, getting the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine is a good idea.

“Sometimes they occur together,” said CDPHE’s Lisa Miller.“Influenza may make you a little more vulnerable to other infections. That’s something that people may not remember, but if you’re getting your flu shot ask what other vaccines may be recommended.”

The good news is there’s plenty of flu vaccine. Over 140 million doses have been distributed nationwide.

-wst9HH9E

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