The flu is back in Colorado.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates influenza activity in the state is moderate, with 121 people across the state having been hospitalized in the 2018-2019 flu season as of Dec. 8.
Counties with the highest number of reported hospitalizations from Sept. 30-Dec. 8 include Denver and Arapahoe counties, each with 28 cases, and Jefferson County with 20 cases.
Strains of flu that seem to be prevalent currently are A: H1N1 and A: unspecified.
Andrea Carlstrom, Chaffee County public health director, said so far this flu season, her department is aware of one confirmed pediatric hospitalization from influenza as of Dec. 18.
She said they were not aware of any other hospitalizations at this time. However, it is possible that others have been diagnosed with flu by their primary-care physicians or the Emergency Department at the hospital without Public Health being aware of it.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, flu activity is low overall, but it is increasing in the United States, she said.
Carlstrom said flu season tends to peak between December and January, during the holiday season, possibly related to an increase in social gatherings and contact.
The CDC reports flu can cause mild to severe illness and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold and usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever (although not everyone with flu will have a fever)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk, the CDC website reports.
Those droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby.
Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.
The CDC cautions that anyone can get flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick.
People ages 65 and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease), pregnant women and children younger than age 5 tend to be more vulnerable.
The best preventive measure that can be taken to ward off or mitigate influenza is to get a flu vaccine each year, the CDC states.
The CDC recommends flu shots for everyone ages 6 months or older.
Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu-related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death.
Carlstrom said flu vaccine can be found at Chaffee County Public Health, primary-care providers and local pharmacies.
CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions, like staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes and frequent handwashing, to help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat and lungs) illnesses, like flu.
You may be able to pass on flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
People with flu are most contagious in the first three or four days after their illness begins.
Some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to seven days after becoming sick.
Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with flu viruses for an even longer time.
Carlstorm said it is also important to stop the spread of germs by washing hands regularly and avoiding or limiting contact with sick people.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing – throw the tissue out right afterwards.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, and be sure to clean and disinfect property often.
After being ill, stay home for at least 24 hours without a fever unless needing to seek medical care.
For information about where flu shots might be available in the county, call 539-4510.