Influenza strikes early, often in Aspen

By Pat Bingham
Real AspenJanuary 11, 2013
Local doctors and health clinics have seen a spike in the number of sick people they are seeing with either nasty colds or full-blown cases of Influenza in recent weeks.

The increase in cases began around the Christmas and New Year holidays as tourists arrived and families gathered indoors.

There have been a lot of influenza cases nationwide, and locally, in recent weeks.

“Flu season normally arrives a little later in the winter season,” said Pitkin County Director of Community Health Services Liz Stark. “The number of Influenza illnesses usually reaches its peak in late January and February. The entire country is seeing an early spike in the number of cases and an increase in the number of hospitalizations, particularly compared to last year. Influenza is a very serious, contagious virus that has the potential to make you very sick.”

There is widespread flu activity nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the percentage of Americans going to the hospital with the flu has doubled within the last month. Local health officials report that there have been no local hospitalizations related to flu to date but they admit “It’s not a matter of if, but when.” The CDC estimates as many as 36,000 people in the United States die from the flu each year. Unlike the common cold, the flu can make people very sick with fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, extreme tiredness, cough, runny nose and sometimes stomach symptoms including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Cold symptoms can be very similar but one difference is that the flu generally has a very sudden onset.

Doctors still recommend getting a flu shot. Shots are recommended for everyone 6 months and older and It’s still the best way to prevent the flu. Other preventive measures include: washing your hands frequently, coughing into your sleeve or a tissue, not touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands and staying home from work or school when you’re sick. These measures can prevent you from getting flu and giving it to someone else. Experts say that this year’s vaccine is a good match for the viruses that are circulating currently. Severe complications of the virus are most common in children under age 2 and among the elderly.

“It’s not too late to get a flu shot if you didn’t get one in the fall,” said Stark. “It takes about 2 weeks to develop full immunity after receiving the flu shot but we still have a few more months to go before the season is officially over.

Flu shots are available by appointment at Community Health Services in Aspen and a walk-in flu shot clinic is planned Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the clinic at 0405 Castle Creek Road, across from Aspen Valley Hospital.

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