Cold and flu coming through Vail Valley |

Cold and flu coming through Vail Valley

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Photo illustration by Dominique Taylor

VAIL VALLEY, Colroado ” Joaquin Werthein’s ski vacation in Colorado’s Vail Valley didn’t turn out so well.

Werthein, visiting from Argentina, sat forlornly in the doctors office, sniffling and coughing, victim to the rash of cold and flu cases that has hit the area.

He arrived on Sunday and felt a bit hot while skiing, but didn’t think anything of it, he said.

By Tuesday, he woke up with a fever, which continued into Wednesday. Then came the cough.

“I came up here for five days of skiing,” he said, shaking his head. “I’ve skied one and a half days.”

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Doctors in the county have been seeing a lot of patients like Werthein lately. A combination of three viruses has created “a perfect storm” of sickness that has hit many people in the area, said Drew Werner, an Eagle physician and Eagle County health officer.

Most people have either the flu, a stomach virus, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) ” which manifests itself as a bad cold and cough, he said.

“It’s the flu and stomach bug that’s keeping people out of work, and RSV is especially hard on kids,” Werner said. “It’s been hitting for the past month, but it’s going to be getting worse. Every year we go through bouts where classrooms are 40 percent to 50 percent empty.”

Stone Creek Charter School in Avon had a higher-than-usual absence rate in the past week, said office manager Tina Sommers.

On Monday, 15 kids were out, and three of them had confirmed cases of flu.

“We’ve had more kids coming in saying that they’re not feeling well, a couple say their tummy isn’t well, and others have sore throats,” Sommers said. “We’ve had more kids than normal getting sent home.”

Hannah Ayres, a nurse at Dr. Eric Olson’s office in Edwards, said the office has been very busy, and she’s seen many children suffering the RSV virus. The virus causes a particularly dry, barky cough in children, she said.

While many people seem to be sick, this year’s flu season is normal and doctors are actually seeing less cases than last year.

Last year, the cold and flu season hit in January, while this year it has peaked in February, Ayres said.

The latest bugs can be frustrating for patients who just want some relief, said Werner ” most of the sicknesses are viruses, so they can’t be treated with antibiotics.

Also, cough medicines aren’t recommended for children, who already have less effective coughs than adults, Werner said.

” (The medicine) can prolong the illness because kids are not getting stuff out anyway when they do cough,” he said. “Instead, we recommend using humidifiers, extra fluids, and elevating the head to treat a cough.”

People who work in close quarters, such as banks, schools or grocery stores are at higher risk of catching the latest cold or flu, Werner said.

Winter can be a tougher time for staying healthy in this area because more people are indoors and in close proximity, school is in, and many tourists are in town, bringing germs in from across the country and the world, he said.

“The visitors we have here bring things with them,” Werner said. “People get sick and still travel. People are sick and miss work, but they’ll still go on their ski vacation. They go to restaurants and sit in hot tubs.”

Haven’t fallen prey to a virus yet? Besides getting a flu shot, Werner recommends frequent hand washing with soap and water before eating, and using hand sanitizer otherwise.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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