ASPEN - Incidents of the flu are on the rise, in Aspen and across the country, and so, suddenly, is interest in getting a flu shot.
Community Health Services in Aspen announced Friday that it will hold a walk-in flu shot clinic from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at its offices off Castle Creek Road, across from Aspen Valley Hospital. The vaccine also is available by appointment.
"We thought we'd give people another chance," said Liz Stark, director of Community Health Services.
Community Health has about 350 doses still available, mostly of the variety geared for adults, because participation in its usual round of flu-shot clinics in the fall was lower than usual.
"We chalk that up to the fact that you can get it in so many places now," Stark said.
It's not too late to get a flu shot, though it takes about two weeks to develop immunity after receiving it, she said.
There's no guarantee that an individual who gets the vaccine won't get the flu, but this season, health officials say someone who's vaccinated has a 62 percent chance of avoiding the illness. The vaccine never comes with a 100 percent guarantee, according to Stark.
"They say the vaccine this year is a very good match to the viruses that are circulating," she said. "That's not always the case."
Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the number of Americans going to the hospital with the flu has doubled within the last month. Local officials say there have been no local hospitalizations related to influenza but predict it's only a matter of time.
Local physicians and health clinics have seen a recent spike in the number of people suffering either nasty colds or full-blown cases of influenza recently. The increase reportedly began as visitors began arriving in Aspen and Snowmass Village for the holidays.
While flu season typically reaches its peak in late January and February, the entire country is experiencing an early jump in flu cases and an increase in hospitalizations, particularly compared to last year, according to Stark.
"Influenza is a very serious, contagious virus that has the potential to make you very sick," she said.
By late last week, 20 deaths among children this season had been blamed on the flu, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 36,000 people in the U.S. die from the flu annually.