Flu season heating up | SteamboatToday.com

Flu season heating up

Colorado one of six states reporting widespread activity

Blythe Terrell/Special to the Steamboat Today
Public health nurse Diane Kelly chats with 6-year-old Jose Patricio Zuniga before administering the intranasal FluMist at the Visiting Nurse Association offices Monday afternoon. The mist is available to patients ages 2 to 29 who don't have any chronic health problems.
John F. Russell

If you go

What: Flu vaccinations

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays (through February)

Where: Steamboat VNA office, 940 Central Park Drive, Suite 101. Spanish translator on hand from 3 to 5 p.m.

Cost: Shots for adults are $22, and shots for children ages 18 and younger are $14 or less. The nasal mist version of the vaccine also is available.

Steamboat Springs — Influenza is gaining momentum in Colorado. — Influenza is gaining momentum in Colorado.

— Influenza is gaining momentum in Colorado.

Although numbers for Routt County are not available, health professionals and schools have seen a few cases this month, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed Colorado as one of six states reporting widespread flu activity for the week ending Jan. 19. The state is about to hit its typical peak season, medical professionals say, and they’re telling people to get vaccinated and take steps to avoid infection.

“A lot of people feel they don’t need a flu shot,” said Janice Poirot, a registered nurse with the Visiting Nurse Association in Steamboat Springs. “But it’s not about you; it’s about everyone around you. If you’re around someone who has an underlying medical condition, like asthma, or a child or older adult, you could spread it to them and cause a lot of problems.”

The Visiting Nurse Association’s Steamboat Springs office is offering vaccinations on Wednesdays.

“We haven’t seen many people in for the month of January” to get vaccinated, Poirot said. “People forget after holidays, but they should get it pretty quick. An immune response has to occur, and that takes about two weeks.”

The virus isn’t waiting around.

Poirot said she knew about a child in Routt County and an infant in Moffat County who had been hospitalized for influenza in the past week. Christine McKelvie of Yampa Valley Medical Center said two people have been hospitalized there for flu-related inpatient stays this month.

Dot Haberlan, who supervises the nursing staff for Hayden and Steamboat Springs schools, said she hadn’t heard of any cases of the flu on the campuses. Haberlan said the virus tends to show up in January and February.

“We haven’t had that hit just yet,” she said. “There’s a lot of viral stuff out there, though. There are a lot of sick people in town.”

Two South Routt Elementary School kindergartners came down with the flu this weekend, said Renee Johnson, school nurse for the South Routt School District.

“That’s all I’ve heard of so far, but if it’s starting, we’ll probably get a few more,” Johnson said. She speculated that the area’s visitors could have an impact on the spread of the virus.

“The thing is with Steamboat that they have so much tourism that people bring it along with them, off those airplanes,” she said.

On average, about 36,000 people die of the flu each year in the U.S., according to the CDC, and more than 200,000 are hospitalized. Symptoms of the respiratory illness may include fever, headache, sore throat, fatigue, cough, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches.

The CDC listed Colorado as having widespread flu activity for the week of Jan. 19. The designation means at least half the state’s regions have reported outbreaks in the disease or increases in flu-like illnesses and laboratory-confirmed flu.

More than half of Colorado’s seven regions have shown evidence of influenza, said Ken Gershman, chief of the communicable disease program with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Children younger than 2 and adults 80 and older are the ones most often hospitalized because of flu, CDC data show. The state tracks only pediatric deaths, Gershman said, and none have been reported this season.

Health professionals gave tips for avoiding and treating flu.

“Hand-washing is the single most important thing you can do to keep yourself well,” Haberlan said. “Sleep is really important. School-age kids need at least nine hours.”

Haberlan and others recommended avoiding crowds, sneezing and coughing not into hands but into elbows or a tissue, and keeping the hands away from the face.

And to those who get the virus, Haberlan, Johnson and Poirot offered the same advice: Stay home.

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