Flu hospitalizations across El Paso County and Colorado spiked in late December, eclipsing last year's pace and striking a demographic that typically fares better than others against the virus - those ages 25 to 64.
Eighty-two people in El Paso County were hospitalized from the flu as of Dec. 30, with the biggest jump in hospitalizations coming a little more than a week before Christmas, according to El Paso County Public Health.
Across Colorado, 448 people have been hospitalized - compared to 373 at the same point last year, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The figures are particularly troubling given the fact that last flu season ranked among the worst since the H1N1 outbreak of 2009. Last flu season, 1,530 people were hospitalized across the state, according to the state health department. In El Paso County, 160 people were hospitalized.
This year's strain has struck the people ages 25 to 64 particularly hard.
Of all cases across Colorado, 57 percent involve people in that age group. Usually, only 30 percent of the cases involve people in that age bracket, according to state health officials. Mark Salley, a state health department spokesman, said officials are trying to determine why this year's hospitalization figures are higher.
For the time being, officials are asking people who are sick with the flu to stay home from work or school, so as not to infect others.
Officials also say that getting vaccinated can help protect against the virus. Some doses available this year help protect against four flu strains, rather than the typical three.
"The advice is to get a flu shot," Salley said. "It's not too late in the flu season to do that."