Following a December surge in hospitalizations for influenza, state health officials say it’s not too late to get vaccinated. The number of flu hospitalizations this season jumped to 448, compared to 373 at this time last year.
“The surge in hospitalizations due to flu is concerning,” said Dr. Lisa Miller, state epidemiologist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We normally see higher flu numbers among the young and elderly, but this year there are more cases among people ages 25 to 64. We encourage anyone who hasn’t been immunized this year to get a flu vaccination now.”
Last year, people ages 25 to 64 accounted for 30 percent of all cases; right now those people make up 57 percent of all cases.
Though Colorado doesn’t formally track flu deaths among adults, thousands of people in the U.S. die every year due to influenza.
The best way to protect yourself is to get immunized. It takes about two weeks after the vaccination for your body to build the antibodies to protect you from flu. State health officials also encourage you to avoid the flu by
· washing your hands frequently;
· coughing and sneezing into the crook of your arm, rather than uncovered or in your hand;
· avoiding people with respiratory illness;
· staying home from work or school when sick, returning only after a fever has subsided for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medication.
Everyone six months of age and older should receive a flu vaccine. People at high risk of serious complications from seasonal influenza include those 65 years and older, children younger than five years, pregnant women and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions.
The flu vaccine is widely available at doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments and local pharmacies. Treatment with antiviral medications also is available, and is particularly recommended for patients with severe disease, hospitalized patients or patients with a high risk of complications.