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Colorado flu season off to a busy start, but docs say this year’s vaccine is a good match for strains going around

  • News Medical
  • October 12, 2017
  • Comments Off on Colorado flu season off to a busy start, but docs say this year’s vaccine is a good match for strains going around

As the flu season gets underway in Colorado, a state health official is warning that it is especially important for people this year to get the flu vaccine — because the specific flu strain seen most so far is especially nasty.

The first statewide flu report, released Wednesday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, shows that six people have been hospitalized for influenza since Oct. 1, the official start of flu season. About 20 people have been hospitalized since August. Both numbers are higher than average for this time of year, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said, adding that such numbers could signal a wicked flu season.

“But influenza is unpredictable,” Herlihy said. “It could be an indicator that it is going to be a more severe season. But it could change.”

Upping the concern, though, is that many of the cases seen so far this year are from the H3N2 strain of the virus.

“That is the strain more typically associated with more severe illness in older adults,” Herlihy said.

Herlihy said that makes it all the more important for people to get vaccinated this year. Because the vaccine takes a bit to kick in, she said health officials recommend that people try to get their dose by the end of October. The vaccine provides protections against multiple strains of flu, including H3N2, she said. Studies suggest that vaccines perform worst in H3N2-dominant years, but Herlihy said early indications are that this year’s vaccine is a good match for the particular strains going around.

Adults older than 65, children under 5, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions are most vulnerable to problems from the flu. But Herlihy said even healthy adults — who are better able to shrug off the flu — should get vaccinated because it will help prevent the spread of the virus to the vulnerable populations.

The vaccine is widely available at hospitals, clinics, public health offices and some businesses. People can go to the website to find the nearest location.