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Colorado swine flu may be keeping other strains away

Dan Elliott
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – The swine flu outbreak in Colorado last fall may have pushed the seasonal flu aside, but it’s too early to say whether the threat of a seasonal flu outbreak is past, state health officials said.

Seasonal flu usually surges in Colorado in late January and peaks in February, but that hasn’t happened this year.

“It appears that H1N1 (swine flu) is the prevalent strain circulating, keeping the other strains at bay,” Joni Reynolds, director of the Colorado Immunization Program, said this week.

The flu in Colorado peaked during the week of Oct. 11, when nearly 360 new hospitalizations were reported, almost all of them swine flu.

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They’ve been declining steadily since then, and only one new hospitalization for flu was reported last week.

“I still would be reticent to predict that we won’t see a seasonal flu,” said Dr. Ned Calonge, the state’s chief medical officer. The seasonal flu can extend into March and April, he said.

The state’s vaccination campaign may have played a role in keeping the seasonal flu low, but other, still-unknown factors may have helped, Calonge said.

The state distributed more than 1.6 million doses of swine flu vaccine, more than enough for the estimated 1 million Coloradans at highest risk, Reynolds said.

No statistics were immediately available for seasonal flu vaccinations.

After peaking in October, Colorado flu cases plummeted to fewer than 20 a week in early December and haven’t risen above that level since.

In mid-January, health officials changed the way they counted flu cases, saying they wanted to avoid including any false positives. Officials didn’t immediately return a call seeking information on how many false positives may have been included in previous totals.

Since late August, 2,022 people have been hospitalized for flu in Colorado, and 68 have died. Officials said 84 percent of those who died had other conditions.


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