The 2012-13 flu season may not end up being the worst in El Paso County history, but it’s shaping up to be an active one, with 33 people hospitalized since Oct. 7. In the same time frame last year, the county recorded 15 hospitalizations.
Statewide, the year-over-year comparison is even more dramatic, with 244 hospitalizations so far this season, compared with 32 in the previous season. The state health department bills it as “significant influenza activity.”
Two children under age 3 — one from Jefferson County, the other from Denver County — have died. One had underlying medical conditions.
“It’s higher than usual, and that’s true for what’s going on around the country,” said Dr. Bill Letson, medical director for El Paso County Public Health.
What is different in Colorado and other mountain states is that most people are being sickened with Type B virus, while the rest of the country is getting hit with Type A H3N2, Letson said. With a mobile population, don’t be surprised to see more Type A cases show up in Colorado — which means people sickened by Type B could get hit again with Type A if they haven’t had a flu shot.
“We will probably have a second wave that is predominantly the A virus a little later in the season, so it’s definitely plenty early enough for people to get the vaccine” Letson said. “Usually, these outbreaks will go into February or March.”
This year’s vaccine tackles Type A H3N2, Type A H1N1 and the Type B virus, and it’s proving to be well-matched to the viruses that are circulating in the U.S., officials said.
Letson said the most common vaccine is made with killed viruses, so it can’t cause the flu, despite some people’s insistence that they got sick when they got a shot. Letson said it may be that people coincidentally come down with another, similar illness.
“Influenza is not the only respiratory virus that circulates this time of year,” he said.