Flu season arrives in Summit County after high activity nationally
FRISCO — Flu season is back.
There have been 765 flu hospitalizations across the state with seven outbreaks at long-term care facilities and one influenza-related death reported, according to the last official count Jan. 4 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The Centers for Disease Control is reporting high influenza activity nationally, with a high percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for the flu. The CDC estimated there have been at least 6.4 million flu illnesses nationwide with 55,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths.
Sara Lopez, nursing manager for Summit County Public Health, said data has not yet shown a high level of flu activity in the area. While official numbers from various medical providers were not immediately available, there have not been any reported hospitalizations due to the flu. At this point in the year, the county usually has seen one or two hospitalizations.
Regionally, hospitalizations are lower than the five-year average with 26 in December compared with an average of 34. But in the first nine days of January, 20 hospitalizations have been reported in the region.
Lopez said influenza type B has been the predominant strain being diagnosed across the nation, which is unusual as type B typically is more prevalent in the spring. Influenza type A, considered potentially more dangerous due to its high mutation rate and number of subtypes and strains, still could dominate flu cases later in the season.
“Predictions about flu activity are tricky because every season has its own patterns,” Lopez said. “If you’ve seen one flu season, you’ve seen one flu season. It’s possible for influenza to have several peaks. And this season, it is possible we’ll see more influenza A later on, which can lead to more severe illness.”
St. Anthony Summit Medical Center communications director Brent Boyer said the hospital already has initiated precautionary measures to prevent the spread of flu. These measures include enacting visitor restrictions at the emergency department and the maternity and birthing departments.
Members of the public are urged to get the flu vaccination, as it is still considered the best defense against the flu. At the very least, Lopez said, it has been clinically proven that the flu vaccine cuts the risk of flu-related death by half among children with underlying medical conditions and by nearly two-thirds among healthy children.
Aside from the flu vaccine, which protects against four specific flu strains but is never 100% effective, Lopez said best practices to prevent the flu include regular hand washing and use of hand sanitizer, decontamination of surfaces after use, covering coughs and sneezes with tissues or using the inside crook of the elbow, and staying home and away from coworkers and the general public if flu symptoms appear.
The flu most severely affects children, adults older than 65, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions. Fast, early treatment of the flu is the most effective way to shorten the timeframe of the illness, officials say.
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