Flu cases doubled, strep throat tripled as Steamboat clinics treat high levels of respiratory illnesses
Urgent care clinic managers say the Steamboat Springs community is experiencing a high level of respiratory illnesses.
Across UCHealth facilities in Steamboat from August through Wednesday, Dec. 28, flu cases were double and strep throat cases were triple what they were during the same timeframe last year, said Lauren Bryan, infection preventionist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.
“Flu has been horrible for this past month to six weeks,” Bryan said. “If you are not vaccinated, I would not go out partying on New Year’s to put myself at risk knowing how high the community burden is right now.”
Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, case numbers spiked during the holiday season, and COVID-19 cases have lingered, Bryan explained. Since Aug. 1, there have been 93 positive tests for RSV recorded at the hospital including 16 pediatric hospitalizations. RSV case numbers are similar to last year but have been compressed into a shorter timeframe, Ryan said.
“It’s the usual suspects; it’s just that they are all coalescing,” Bryan said.
Staff at UCHealth Urgent Care in Steamboat saw 78 patients on Monday, Dec. 26, the highest daily volume since the clinic opened in May 2021, according to Ted Morton, practice administrator. The high volume on Monday may have been due in part to the Urgent Care being closed Sunday, Dec. 25, for Christmas Day, but 54 patients also visited the Urgent Care on Tuesday, Dec. 27, and 65 on Wednesday.
“Predominately, patients are presenting with upper respiratory symptoms and sore throats that can be associated with colds, strep throat, influenza and COVID,” Morton said. “We’ve also seen some orthopedic injuries come through recently. There is a lot of illness circulating right now, and we encourage everyone to monitor any symptoms and seek the right level of care accordingly.”
Those three days at UCHealth Urgent Care on Mid Valley Drive this week topped the previous high of 48 patients on the busiest day last year, Dec. 27, 2021. The facility saw a total of 616 patients from Dec. 1-28 last year and 978 during the same timeframe this year, Morton said.
The volume of sick or injured patients who come to Steamboat Medical Urgent Care on Pine Grove Road during the week before and after Christmas is traditionally so high that the clinic does not schedule any well-check visits during that time, said Adam Pople, Steamboat Medical Group practice administrator. Last holiday season the urgent care facility treated a peak of 139 patients on one day, Pople said.
“We’re seeing lots of respiratory illness,” Pople said. “It’s important for those people to seek the appropriate level of care and help save the ER.”
Pople said although Steamboat Medical Urgent Care reached capacity for visits several times during the last nine days, the clinic is seeing a more diverse range of patients and more flu cases this year compared to a greater number of COVID-19 cases during the 2021 holiday season.
At the emergency department at UCHealth YVMC, the stats show significant flu, COVID and RSV cases, said Julie McFadden, registered nurse and trauma program manager.
“We’ve been very steady with medical patients and various injuries. Trauma-wise, we haven’t been as busy as last December, and that’s likely attributed to all the snow we’ve received this month, as better snow equals better skiing conditions. Better skiing conditions often mean less injuries,” McFadden said. “What we’re not seeing in trauma cases, we’re seeing in influenza, COVID and RSV, all of which can be evaluated in the emergency department or at urgent care depending on the time of day and the severity of symptoms.”
Through Wednesday, the emergency department saw 864 patients during December compared to 999 patients throughout all of December 2021. McFadden said December typically starts with average daily patient volumes in the teens to 20s, then grows to 30s, 40s and sometimes 50s around the holidays.
Physicians continue to urge residents to get a flu vaccine shot.
Roberta Smith, Routt County Public Health director, said the department’s flu immunization goal is 82% of people 65 and older in the county. As of Dec. 11, 63.9% of people 65 and older in Routt County had received a flu vaccine, and 37.4% of the overall county population age 6 months and older, Smith said.
Routt County Public Health offers flu vaccines by appointment for all ages with more information available online at Co.Routt.co.us/641/Public-Health.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.