Eagle County flu cases more prevalent than they’ve been in at least 10 years
Early season cases are soaring, but there's still time to get a flu shot before the Christmas holidays
The COVID-19 virus is still with us, but Eagle County is seeing significant outbreaks of two other respiratory viruses.
It’s common to call a stomach bug “the flu.” That’s incorrect. Influenza is a respiratory virus. If a cold and Godzilla had a baby, it would be the flu, and a particularly bad case can be fatal.
Rebecca Larson, the county’s deputy public health director, said the state, county and nation are seeing an “increasing trend” of influenza. In addition, cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, are “very, very high” right now.
Larson said both the flu and RSV cases last year were lower than this year. But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently reported flu cases are higher this year than at any point in the past 10 years. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports that 222 new flu-related hospitalizations were recorded during the week ending Nov. 26. There have been 517 hospitalizations reported since Oct. 2.
But statewide figures aren’t the only numbers county health officials are tracking. Larson said local health officials are also keeping an eye on influenza levels in places that tend to provide a lot of visitors to Eagle County.
While flu and RSV weren’t as prevalent during the height of the pandemic, Larson said experts aren’t sure why.
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There’s no RSV vaccine, but there’s long been a flu vaccine, and those vaccines are a bit different every year in anticipation of which strain of influenza is expected.
The vaccine and virus matched up pretty well this year, Larson said. But, she added, the number of flu-vaccinated Eagle County residents is lagging this year, with about 23% of residents receiving vaccines.
“Our goal is always over 60%,” Larson said.
But there’s still time to get an effective vaccine, both for the Christmas holiday season and the heart of the ski season.
Larson said it takes about two weeks for a vaccine to become fully effective. This is a good time to get that shot, which is available in medical offices, pharmacies and county public health offices in Avon, Eagle and El Jebel. Most health insurance providers cover the cost of shots, and those without insurance can get free vaccines at the county’s public health offices.
The flu vaccine can prevent people from getting severely ill, and can sometimes prevent infection.
The vaccine is recommended for people 6 months old and older.
That’s the same advice for the current COVID-19 vaccine. Larson said people can get the flu shot and the COVID booster on the same day, but recommended taking one shot in each arm. If it’s been at least two months since your last vaccine or booster, you can get one of the new, “bivalent” vaccines.
Viruses are often sneaky, and even the best precautions don’t always work. Wearing masks if you’re sick can help prevent the spread. Nearly-obsessive hand washing can help as well.
But please stay home if you do get sick. If you’re running a fever, stay home until you’ve been fever-free — without medicine — for at least 24 hours.
Since the flu, RSV and COVID are all respiratory diseases, a severe cough, shortness of breath, wheezing or other symptoms, you should seek medical attention. That is especially true if you have other health conditions.
The early onset of so many cases may ease with time. But, Larson said, “we have a long way to go to build some (community) immunity.”