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Flu hits Pueblo as officials note first hospitalized case
Pueblo Chieftain - 12/7/2018
Dec. 07--The flu has officially arrived in Pueblo County.
Public health officials with the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment announced Thursday the county has seen its first confirmed case of hospitalization due to influenza, marking the official beginning to a 2018 flu season that's gotten off to a relatively slow start across the state.
According to Margaret Comstock, a regional epidemiologist for the PDPHE, only 57 cases of influenza hospitalizations have been recorded thus far in Colorado's flu season, compared to 397 cases reported in the Centennial State through Dec. 6, 2017.
The first confirmed cases of influenza hospitalizations in Pueblo County also came significantly earlier in previous years, as the first case was recorded on Oct. 31 in 2016, and on Oct. 20 in 2017.
"I think it's too early to comment on whether we'll have a less dramatic flu season, but I think it demonstrates that the flu season started earlier last year than it did this year, which is why our numbers are so different," Comstock said.
"I do anticipate every week going forward now, there will be more cases."
As it does each year during flu season, the PDPHE is advising individuals to obtain a flu vaccination as soon as possible to prevent contracting the virus.
"It's the number one thing we can do to keep ourselves safe during the flu season," said Zak Van Ooyen, clinic program manager for the PDPHE.
"The flu vaccine takes about two weeks before it becomes effective, so as soon as flu vaccine is available we really recommend that everybody get to their provider to get their shots."
Van Ooyen advised that if individuals' providers don't carry the flu vaccine, they should check with local pharmacies, most of which can bill insurance providers for flu shots.
For those who cannot obtain a vaccination through their medical provider or local pharmacy, Van Ooyen said the PDPHE serves as a "last-stop" resource for those who cannot obtain a flu shot anywhere else.
Since strains of the flu virus are constantly evolving and mutating, even those who obtained a flu shot last year should be getting new vaccinations this year.
Citizens who would like to obtain a flu shot but have not yet done so should contact their providers immediately, Van Ooyen said, as the media publication of the first hospitalized flu case tends to cause an influx of vaccine seekers each year.
"People don't seem to be all too concerned about flu until they hear somebody is the hospital with the flu and then you get this rush," Van Ooyen said.
"So if individuals want to get their flu shots timely, they need to make an appointment now. ... If you are one of the individuals that waits until this moment, call your doctor to get on the schedule because you might not be able to get in soon."
Outside of flu vaccinations, the PDPHE advises people take precautions to help stop the spread of germs, such as coughing or sneezing into a tissue or sleeve, washing hands frequently with soap and water and avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
Those who may be experiencing flu symptoms -- fever, headaches, tiredness, cough, sore throat, runny or stuff nose, body ache, chills, fatigue, nausea and vomiting -- are asked to stay inside their homes for 24 hours after they've broken their fevers without the aid of medication.
For individuals who are unable to secure a vaccination from their medical provider or pharmacy, the PDPHE offers the vaccine to all individuals 6 months or older by appointment.
There were 264 hospitalized flu cases in Pueblo in 2017 and despite the slow start to this year's flu season, Van Ooyen said flu cases in Pueblo tend to spike in January and February, giving citizens just enough time to secure their shots before the peak of flu season begins.
(c)2018 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.)
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