Flu still hanging around in Pitkin County, health official says | AspenTimes.com

Flu still hanging around in Pitkin County, health official says

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

The influenza strain that was on the upswing locally and across the state in December and early this month is still hanging around, Pitkin County Public Health Director Liz Stark said.

Stark said Tuesday that four Pitkin County residents have been hospitalized since Jan. 1 after showing severe symptoms from influenza A virus. The A strain that has resulted in the most hospitalizations in Colorado and across the nation is known as H3N2, and it’s resistant to the vaccine that was prepared in advance of the current flu season.

The good news is that the latest data from federal and state health officials show that the flu virus is not spreading as rapidly as it was last month.

“Things do seem to have leveled off across the state and locally,” Stark said, referring to statistics through Saturday. Flu season officially began Oct. 1.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported this week that 2,504 people from 55 counties have been hospitalized due to influenza this season. That figure does not reflect all cases of flu or flu-like illnesses, since many people are treated at doctors’ offices without needing hospitalization. Others don’t seek treatment, preferring to ride out the illness with assistance from over-the-counter medications.

Influenza-related hospitalizations in Colorado peaked during the week ending Dec. 27, the Health Department said. The 2,504 hospitalizations across the state exceeds the 2,157 hospitalizations reported during the 2009-10 influenza pandemic.

Of the four Pitkin County residents hospitalized since Jan. 1, three sought treatment from Aspen Valley Hospital while one went to a health care facility in another county, Stark said.

Officially, the state remains at an “elevated” status for the flu. While the rate of hospitalizations is decreasing, that doesn’t mean that people should let their guard down. Frequent hand-washing and flu shots are the two most common methods of warding off influenza.

Stark said it’s impossible to say whether the worst part of flu season is over.

“It’s really hard to predict,” she said. “Some years there are two peaks. (In the 2013-14 season) we had an early peak in December, and this year we’ve seen a similar pattern, but it’s really hard to tell.”

The basic message health officials want to relay to the public, Stark said, is that the flu is still here, “and it’s pretty significant.”


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