2014’s flu season is off to a running start in Larimer County and across Colorado.
Numbers of Larimer County residents hospitalized with flu (now at 34) and of those who are seeing their physicians for respiratory illnesses are rising steadily and rapidly.
So far this season the predominant type of influenza is A(H1N1), the same type that first appeared in the 2009 pandemic.
“Older people have fairly good immunity to H1N1, thanks to their exposure to a similar virus during childhood (pre-1957), so the current flu is disproportionately affecting young and middle-aged people,” said Dr. Adrienne LeBailly, director of the Health Department. “Almost 80 percent of those hospitalized in Larimer County this year are under age 65. This is different from last year’s flu season where over 70 percent of those hospitalized with influenza A(H3N2) were over 65.
LeBailly stressed, however, that even though the current strain is mostly affecting younger and middle-aged people, those over 65 can still get very ill from it – or from another strain.
“It’s still early in the season, and the circulating virus could change during the course of the next few months,” she said. That’s why she recommends flu shots for anyone over 6 months old.
Influenza is expected to increase with the winter weather, and holiday travel has spread the virus across the country. The Health Department recommends that those who have not yet had a flu vaccination get one soon, because it takes about two weeks to provide protection. The vaccine is generally recommended for anyone over 6 months of age, but is especially important for pregnant women and people with chronic diseases or obesity.
Vaccination is the best way to help prevent the flu, and this year’s vaccine provides a good match for the current flu virus. But it’s also very important to wash hands often, cover coughs and sneezes, and stay home when you are sick to avoid spreading flu in schools and the workplace.
For more information on flu and flu vaccination, see http://www.cdc.gov/flu.