Flu outbreak threatens adults and children alike | AspenTimes.com

Flu outbreak threatens adults and children alike

Washing your hands often and getting vaccinated are the best defenses from a serious strain of influenza that has struck Colorado this winter, say local and state health officials.

As of Wednesday morning, 3,957 cases of the flu had been reported in an outbreak that has killed at least four people, all children, according to the state health department.

Concern over the outbreak didn’t skip the Roaring Fork Valley, where grown-ups called their physicians and parents called their pediatricians to ask what they could do to keep from becoming ill.

“I’ve gotten a ton of phone calls every day for the past two weeks,” said Sabrina Hall, a registered nurse at Aspen Valley Pediatrics. “We have had a number of children with the flu already.”

Outbreaks of influenza typically occur between mid-October and May, according to the Center for Disease Control, and kill approximately 36,000 people each year. The difference this year is that one particular strain of the virus wasn’t included in this year’s flu vaccine.

Even so, the Center for Disease Control is recommending that people get what they refer to as “cross protective immunity” from the flu vaccine this year ” which means that while the vaccine may not prevent this strain entirely, it will certainly keep symptoms in check.

Hall points out that the CDC is also now recommending that children ages 6 months to 2 years get the flu shot, whereas before the CDC was simply encouraging the shot.

“We also strongly recommend flu shots for kids with any underlying health problems, including diabetes, asthma, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis or any respiratory problems,” Hall said.

Hall said in the Roaring Fork Valley, it’s especially important for the many people who work in the service industry to get vaccinated. Those workers will be exposed to a large number of people during the winter, and they should consider making sure their family members are vaccinated.

Community Health Services on Castle Creek Road next to Aspen Valley Hospital offers flu vaccinations for a nominal charge.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]

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