People hospitalized from flu triple early in season


COLORADO SPRINGS– The 45 hospitalized with the flu the fall in El Paso County is enough for medical professionals to take note.

“I think it’s a little early to be this heavy with this many cases. It concerns me.” Dr. Nicole Carbonell, an emergency room physician at Penrose-St. Francis hospitals said.

From September 30, 2018, through December 16, 2018, the El Paso County Health Department tracked 14 people hospitalized. With over triple the number this year, some people are stepping up prevention efforts.

“I even know of some pediatricians who are offering flu shots to children a little bit younger than the start age because the season is so severe thus far,” Carbonell said.

Vaccinations are the most effective way to prevent the flu, according to Carbonell. She says, even if you do get sick after getting vaccinated, it will make symptoms less severe.

There are no deaths reported in El Paso County nor in Colorado, where the 293 cases reported Tuesday afternoon are up from 206 on Monday. 

Across the country, however, the Centers for Disease Control reported 1,300 people who have died from the flu this season. Carbonell says, there are symptoms outside of the typical flu to look out of for when a person is becoming dangerously sick.

“If [a person] is breathing really hard or their color isn’t good, once you have their temperature under control close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and they’re still really lethargic or confused, then it’s time for them to be seen by a physician,” Carbonell said.

There are three ways health officials try to estimate how severe a flu season will be, according to EPC Public Health:

  1. Identify the type of strain(s).
  2. Estimate how many people have gotten it.
  3. Estimate how many people who need the vaccine (elderly, infants, people with respiratory diseases) have gotten it.

Last year’s vaccine was 29% effective, and it is still too early to know how this year’s will do, but EPC Public health says, the quadrivalent vaccine issued this year is showing good coverage.

Another method is looking to the east. Way east.

“We did look at the numbers from Australia and saw that their flu season was extremely severe this year, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh goodness. Here we go. It’s going to be bad this year.” said Cardonell.

Things health experts want you to remember this flu season:

  • Don’t go to work sick or send your kids to school sick. Kids should be fever and vomit free for 24 hours before going back
  • Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing with the bend in your arm
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds. The CDC says hand sanitizer gel can be more effective if hands are not washed long enough.
  • Don’t touch the sink directly after washing hands
  • Shake hands less, fist bump more

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