Health officials report flu season is mild, so far

No hospitalizations in Southwest Colo.

Getting immunized against the flu not only helps you stay healthy, but it also prevents the spread of the seasonal virus in the community.

“If everyone gets vaccinated, then you get herd immunization that prevents outbreaks, so get your shot,” advises Marc Meyer, infection control director for Southwest Memorial Hospital.

Last year, less than 50 percent of Colorado residents received a flu shot, according to the Bloomfield Enterprise.

In more populated areas like the Front Range, the problem led to five child deaths, and sent 1,530 people to the hospital.

The first death for the 2013-14 flu season was reported in Weld County. A man in his 20s died from contracting the H1N1 strain of the flu.

This year has been a mild flu season so far locally, health officials report. There have been no hospitalizations in southwest Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Meyer said flu shots include vaccinations for four flu strains, including the H1N1 strain, which caused a worldwide pandemic in 2009.

Local flu immunizations adjust as the season progresses. As flu strains from the south migrate north by February, health officials adjust the vaccine in to include resistance to new strains.

Health professionals recommend everyone ages 6 and older get vaccinated. And people over 65 should get a higher dose flu shot, Meyer said.

“Studies show that receiving the stronger dose is key to preventing deaths in the older population,” he said.

For the week ending November 23, influenza activity remained at a low level statewide, but has been increasing on the Front Range. Influenza A (2009 H1N1) is the predominate subtype, according to the CDPHE.

There have been 33 hospitalizations for flu statewide from 10 counties. No influenza-associated pediatric deaths or influenza outbreaks have been reported in the state.

The H1N1 “swine flu” caused a worldwide outbreak in 2009 that killed 203,000 people worldwide, 10 times more than previously thought, according to a recent study published in the journal Plos Medicine Nov. 26.

Prior to the study, the World Health Organization put the number at 18,631.

“This study confirms that the H1N1 virus killed many more people globally that originally believed,” said Dr. Lone Simonsen, the lead author of the study. “We also found that the mortality burden of this pandemic fell most heavily on younger people and those living in certain parts of the Americas.”