Flu hospitalizations leveling off in Colorado after early January spike

BY JESSE PAUL jesse.paul@gazette.com - Updated: January 22, 2014 at 6:24 pm • Published: January 22, 2014 | 5:35 pm 0

After a spike in flu-related hospitalizations in El Paso County and throughout Colorado in recent weeks, influenza activity remains high but may be showing signs of leveling off, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

"We still have a considerable amount of influenza circulating, but it does appear that we've peaked and the numbers are declining," said Lisa Miller, state epidemiologist.

For the week ending Jan. 4, 347 people were hospitalized with influenza. Since then, admissions have declined, Miller said, adding that the season - which generally stretches October to May - has been moderately severe and that health care professionals have seen a significant number of hospitalizations.

So far this flu season, there have been 1,190 influenza-related hospitalizations in the state, according to Miller.

Influenza A, also known as H1N1, which nabbed headlines and sickened people nationwide in 2009, has made a resurgence as the most diagnosed strain and as causing the most hospitalizations of the virus this season.

"State laboratory virologic surveillance continues to show that virtually all influenza viruses currently circulating in Colorado are the 2009 H1N1 virus," the Department of Public Health and Environment said in a weekly report on influenza last week.

Since Sept. 29, 150 people have been hospitalized with the flu in El Paso County, according to El Paso County Public Health, the bulk of those occurring between Dec. 21 and Jan. 11.

The state does not keep statistics on adult flu-related deaths, but public health officials say they know from anecdotal evidence that people have been killed by the virus. There have been no pediatric deaths attributed to the flu in Colorado this season.

Miller said that vaccination is the best way to keep from catching the virus, even this late in the season, and reminds the public to stay home from work and keep their children home from school if they are sick.

"We are not out of the season yet," she said.

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Contact Jesse Paul at 476-4809. Twitter @JesseAPaul.

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