(COLORADO SPRINGS) — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) continues to monitor increases in respiratory viruses, including flu, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), and COVID-19.

CDPHE said they are supporting the coordination of hospitals as they plan for the possibility of more cases. Cases are also occurring earlier than usual in the respiratory illness season.

“As the weather gets colder, more people are spending more time indoors, and viruses are more likely to spread indoors,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, CDPHE. “What might feel like a mild cold for one person can be very serious for another person, especially infants, young children, someone who is immunocompromised, or older adults.”

Coloradans can help prevent respiratory viruses by:

  • Getting vaccinated. Both flu and COVID-19 have effective, safe vaccines. Anyone 6 months and older can get vaccinated for flu and COVID-19. It is safe to get the vaccines together.  
  • Seeing or calling a health care provider before going to a busy emergency department when you or your child has respiratory symptoms. Your provider can help you determine the best ways to manage symptoms and when it is important to be seen in the clinic, urgent care, or emergency department.
  • Staying home when sick, including not visiting or interacting with people who may be at higher risk, including older adults, young children, and infants. This is key to preventing the spread of viruses and causing outbreaks which put additional strain on the hospital system. 
  • Washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or with hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol. 
  • Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or upper arm sleeve when you cough or sneeze, throw away the tissue after you use it, and clean hands as instructed above.
  • Cleaning potentially contaminated surfaces, like doorknobs, tables, handrails, etc. 
  • Avoiding sharing cups, eating utensils, and touching your face with unwashed hands. 

CDPHE forecasts the three illnesses could potentially prove more severe with the rise in cases this season, and warns the public to take steps to protect yourself and your family:

Flu

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this flu season could be more severe than we have seen in years. CDC data shows increasing seasonal flu activity across the United States. In Colorado, 25 people were hospitalized with flu during the week ending Oct. 29, 2022, for a total of 49 people hospitalized since Oct. 2.

What can you do? Anyone aged 6 months or older can get their annual flu vaccine. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones, and our community. You can safely get the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine, including the new omicron vaccine, during the same visit, if it is offered.

RSV

Colorado, along with multiple regions across the United States, has seen a sharp increase in reported RSV outbreaks and hospitalizations. RSV causes respiratory tract illness in people of all ages, but infants, young children, and older adults are at greater risk of severe illness from RSV.

What can you do? If your child is demonstrating early signs of respiratory distress or other symptoms of RSV, consider taking them to their primary care doctor for evaluation. Call or see your pediatrician or other health care provider before going to an emergency department.

COVID-19

Colorado is also experiencing a defined upward trend in cases of COVID-19. Percent positivity is increasing, and cases and hospitalizations in Colorado have increased slightly in recent weeks. BA.5 remains the most prevalent subvariant, and BQ.1, BQ.1.1, and BF.7 are emerging and could accelerate transmission in the coming weeks.

What can you do? Anyone aged 5 years and older who has completed a COVID-19 primary vaccine series should get an omicron vaccine to increase their protection against the dominant subvariants circulating in Colorado right now. People should get their omicron vaccine at least two months after their most recent dose — either their completed primary series or third (booster) dose.

It takes two weeks for COVID-19 vaccines to be fully effective, so November 10 is the last day to get a vaccine in order to have the highest level of protection available by Thanksgiving.