By Jamie Leary
WELD COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– The Centers for Disease Control says the flu is now widespread in every state except Hawaii.
In Colorado, the number of hospitalizations for flu continue to climb. As of Friday morning, Boulder County was reporting 125 hospitalizations from the flu compared to 55 in the 2017 season.
In Weld County, the Department of Public Health and Environment says in December, it had 47 patients hospitalized with the flu compared to just eight in December 2016. Just two weeks into January 2018, Weld County is on track to beat December with 43 hospitalizations already.
Banner Health’s North Colorado Medical Center is busy with the flu. It recently put up flu signage equipped with masks, tissues and hand sanitizer. While the North Colorado Medical Center isn’t at capacity with flu patients, Banner Health says its hospitals in the Phoenix area are.
“The season started early back in November and has had a really rapid rise and is probably peaking right about now,” said Doctor Dan Jernigan, CDC Influenza Division Director.
The H3-N2 strain is dominating right now which can hit children and older adults hard. Twenty children have died nationwide compared to three children this time last year.
Weld County says it has seen several outbreaks among the 65 and older population likely stemming from senior living facilities.
CBS4 stopped by Hillcrest Senior Living in Loveland and found residents there were beating the odds.
“I feel great!” said Dian Richardson.
Without reveling her age, Richardson says it’s her exercise and diet that has kept her healthy. On top of her regimen, she has had a flu shot every year for the past 15 years and has never once had the flu.
“I don’t get the flu. I don’t know if it’s the shot that helps or my healthy living.”
All of the staff and most of the residents at Hillcrest have been vaccinated. So far, the facility has not seen any cases of the flu.
The CDC says vaccine effectiveness could be in the 30 percent range this season. That’s lower than typical seasons but higher than the 10 percent Australia is reporting from its flu season.
Even if the shot does not prevent you from getting the flu, experts say it can lessen the severity and shorten the duration.
“There could be upwards of thirteen more weeks of influenza season still to come. The predominant strain right now is H3 however H1N1 seems to be making an entry right now and may be causing disease later in the season and then Influenza B notoriously shows up late and can effect both older and younger individuals,” said Dr. Jernigan.
When it comes to beating the flu season or personally dealing with it, Banner Health has some advice:
Don’t let the flu get to you.
This has been a severe flu season, with many patients experiencing flu earlier in the season and record numbers of people being infected.
What can you do to protect yourself against the flu?
- Get a flu shot. It will help prevent the flu, and if you get the flu it will be less severe. It is not too late to get a shot.
- Wash your hands regularly – especially before you eat, and whenever you are in public places. Try not to touch the area around your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Understand that people are generally the most contagious 24 hours before they start having symptoms and during the time they have the most symptoms.
- If visiting a health care facility, follow their guidelines regarding visitor restrictions. They are for the protection of patients and visitors.
What are the symptoms of flu?
- Fever and/or chills
- Sore throat
- Runny nose and/or congestion
- Body aches
What can help me feel better if I get the flu?
- Stay home and rest
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Motrin and Tylenol will help with fever, headaches and muscle aches
- Antibiotics are not needed for viral infections like influenza
- Antivirals can help in the very earliest stages of the illness
When do I seek medical care?
- With plenty of rest, most patients recover from the flu in a week to 10 days.
- The elderly, very young, or those with underlying health conditions are at higher risk for flu complications and should seek out medical care if their condition worsens.
What can you do if you feel like you have the flu?
- If you or a family member needs care for flu-like symptoms, reach out to your primary care physician or visit an urgent care clinic.
- Most flu symptoms can be managed in these care settings without visiting an emergency room. If you need emergency-level care, be prepared that Emergency departments are extremely busy.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.