The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is reporting significant influenza activity in the state, with a total of 244 people from 22 counties hospitalized with the flu. By Dec. 24 last year, the state had reported 32 people hospitalized with the flu.
Dr. Lisa Miller, state epidemiologist, said, “Vaccination is the safest and most effective tool we have to prevent influenza. Everyone older than 6 months should receive a flu vaccination annually.”
In addition to 244 hospitalizations (the state tracks the number of people hospitalized with influenza), two pediatric deaths associated with influenza also have been reported, one in Denver County and the other in Jefferson County. The two deaths occurred between mid-November and mid-December. Both children were under age 3, and one had underlying health conditions. In previous years, anywhere from 0-12 pediatric deaths have occurred.
The CDC reports, based on limited testing thus far, the 2012-2103 vaccine is well-matched to influenza strains circulating nationally this season.
“There is an abundant supply of flu vaccine available in the state,” said Dr. Miller. “You first should check to see if your doctor has vaccine available. This way, your doctor can document your vaccination. If your doctor is not offering vaccinations, they are readily available at a variety of grocery and drug stores.”
Antiviral treatment is recommended as early as possible for any patient with confirmed or suspected influenza who is hospitalized; has severe, complicated or progressive illness; or is at higher risk for influenza complications.
Priority groups recommended for vaccination include the following:
· children ages 6 months to 4 years
· people with chronic health conditions (asthma, chronic pulmonary diseases, significant heart disease, sickle cell anemia, neurologic conditions that compromise respiratory function and people with a suppressed immune system)
· women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant
· American Indians/Alaska Natives
· people who are morbidly obese
· residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities
· health care professionals
· household contacts and caregivers of children younger than 5 years or adults 50 years and older
To help protect yourself and others from flu, CDC recommends the following:
· Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
· Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
· Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
· If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
· While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
Click here more information about influenza and to view the weekly Colorado flu surveillance report.