Colorado flu dwindles, but experts expect it to return | AspenTimes.com

Colorado flu dwindles, but experts expect it to return

Dan Elliott
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – Colorado’s influenza outbreak has dwindled after peaking in October, but health experts warn it will probably surge again, either with another wave of swine flu or a seasonal virus.

The number of new flu-related hospitalizations reported to state officials has stayed below 20 per week since Dec. 6. The number peaked at nearly 360 during the week of Oct. 11.

Just 14 flu-related hospitalizations were reported last week, but the state Department of Public Health and Environment said that number could rise if any late reports come in.

Dr. Michelle Barron, medical director for infection control at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver, said Thursday that a cycle of recurring peaks and troughs is typical for such flu outbreaks.

The lull can last four to six weeks, she said.

Barron said the number of people being tested for swine flu is rising at the University of Colorado Hospital but it’s not clear if that indicates a new surge has begun.

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“I would anticipate that … we will have another peak, but it probably won’t be as dramatic as what we saw earlier,” Barron said. “That’s our hope.”

Virtually all of the influenza cases reported so far have been the swine flu or H1N1 virus. Barron said it’s impossible to predict whether the anticipated surge will be another round of swine flu or a seasonal virus.

The seasonal flu usually doesn’t appear in Colorado until late January, peaking in February before fading in March.

“I know people are anxious and want us to say we are done, but it’s too early to say that,” she said.

One flu-related death was reported in Colorado last week, bringing the total to 59 this season.

About 36 percent of the deaths have been in the 25- to 49-year-old group. The highest death rate has been among 50- to 64-year-olds, with 1.94 deaths per 100,000 people.

Thursday was an unpaid furlough day for state employees, and a spokesman for the state health department didn’t return a phone message.

Swine flu is widespread in only four states, down from 48 in late October, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. The four states are Delaware, Maine, New Jersey and Virginia.