If you were sick over the holidays, you were not alone. Flu season is hitting hard in Colorado.
Three to four times more people have been hospitalized than usual and the trend isn’t slowing down, said State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
We don’t have any indication that our influenza season has peaked yet,” she said.
Across the state as of the end of December, 1,203 people had been hospitalized, according to the state health department. Six people had been hospitalized in Montezuma County and one person in La Plata County.
The flu season typically lasts until May and trends can vary with multiple waves of different forms of the flu, Herlihy said.
There are no definitive numbers of flu cases in La Plata County, but based on reports from clinics and hospitals, the area has seen more cases, a trend in line with the state data, said Rosalind Penney, southwest regional epidemiologist with San Juan Basin Public Health.
Across Colorado, there have been far more cases of Influenza A, specifically a strain called H3N2.
“That particular type of influenza causes more illness in the elderly and because of that, we see more severe illnesses, more hospitalizations and, oftentimes, more deaths as well,” Herlihy said of H3N2.
While the flu season is well underway, Herlihy strongly encourages everyone older than 6 months to get vaccinated. It is especially important for seniors, pregnant women and those with chronic diseases, she said.
She also encouraged older adults to seek care if they are experiencing flu symptoms because there are antiviral medications that can prevent severe illness.
In addition to typical symptoms like a fever, sore throat and cough, some older adults may see underlying health conditions worsen as a result of the flu.
While seniors may not see fevers as high as others, breathing conditions, heart conditions and confusion could all worsen as a result of the flu, she said.
It’s too soon to say how effective the flu vaccine is this season. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will release more information about the vaccine in January or February, she said.
San Juan Basin Public Health has flu shots for eligible children and adults who qualify for federally supported vaccines if they are unable to receive them from their primary care provider. It also has high-dose flu shots for seniors.
Appointments in Durango can be scheduled Tuesday through Thursday by calling 247-5702. Appointments in Pagosa Springs are available the first Thursday of every month. Call 264-2409 to schedule an appointment in Pagosa.