Colorado reports 14 deaths from swine flu |

Colorado reports 14 deaths from swine flu

Dan Elliott
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – An earlier-than-normal wave of influenza cases led by the swine flu has left at least 14 Coloradans dead this season and put 691 in hospitals, state health officials said Wednesday.

All 14 deaths and at least 350 of the hospital cases are blamed on the swine flu, or H1N1 strain, said Lori Maldonado, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“I think it’s hitting early because H1N1 has been around,” Maldonado said. “Last year, we didn’t have our first hospitalization until November.”

The number of hospitalizations based on swine flu is likely to rise, she said. But so far, the swine flu has been no more severe than the seasonal flu, she said.

“There’s always a range. There are some who are mildly affected and some who are severely affected,” she said.

Infants, children and teens up to age 18 have been hit especially hard, accounting for nearly 45 percent of all flu hospitalizations in Colorado and six of the 14 deaths.

Nationwide, 81 children have died from swine flu, the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week. The CDC includes children 17 and under in that category, while Colorado puts the line at 18.

Thirteen Colorado schools have closed at some point this fall because of flu, but some have reopened.

All four schools in La Junta closed for the week starting Wednesday.

“I would say districtwide, we were at a 40 percent absentee rate,” Superintendent Jim Sullivan said, calling that a conservative estimate.

He said the schools are being cleaned and will reopen Monday.

The Swallows Charter Academy, a K-through-10 school in Pueblo West, canceled Tuesday classes because of flu and was already scheduled to be closed the rest of the week for conferences, said Loretta Vasile, the school secretary.

“There was such a mixed bag – strep, fever,” she said. “We don’t know how many were actually flu. We just said, ‘You know what, we’re not going to have school today.'”

Classes are scheduled to resume Monday.

Three schools in Fairplay have also closed. Officials there didn’t immediately return a call.

The H1N1 vaccine is being distributed to states by population, and Colorado has received 110,000 doses so far. More will be ordered as it becomes available, said Joni Reynolds, head of the state immunization program.

Reynolds estimates Colorado needs about 2 million doses just to cover its at-risk population, which includes pregnant women, health care workers, schoolchildren, children’s caretakers and adults with chronic conditions.

Reynolds said the first batch of swine flu vaccine has been distributed by population to county health departments and major hospitals. Health care workers who give flu vaccinations to others will get the highest priority.

Reynolds said demand for the seasonal flu vaccine has outstripped supply but more is on the way. She said there’s still plenty of time for people to get it before the worst of the seasonal flu hits, usually in winter months.

Reynolds said she hasn’t gotten her own seasonal flu shot yet.

“I was at the doctor’s this morning and they didn’t have any,” she said.

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