Flu season kicks in early, and viciously
With two flu-related deaths and nearly 60 hospitalizations already this season in Pueblo County, flu season is quickly shaping up to be one of the worst in recent years.
Michelle Peulen, Public Relations Specialist at Parkview Medical Center, said this year the worst strain of flu is one of H1N1.
The virus is hitting hard and affecting many more young and middle aged adults this year.
“The number one thing you can do to protect yourself and your family is to get vaccinated,” Peulen said.
“We say it over and over. The flu vaccine each year protects against four different flu viruses, and this year the H1N1 strain is big.
“The tricky thing is we’re seeing this year it’s affecting that 18 to 64-year-old age group, and that group is stubborn in thinking they’re healthy, so they don’t need to be vaccinated.”
Every year, those noted highest at risk for the flu and flu-related complations are very young children, older adults as well as those with other health issues and complications.
Because of that, Puelen said many people in the 18-64 age group think they don’t need a flu shot.
“What we’re hearing about this strain is that it’s taking people down for five to 10 days.
That’s a long time to be in bed with body aches, chills, fever, headaches and more,” she said.
The biggest indicator that illness is flu and not a common cold is the fever.
Major body aches, chills and cold sweats are indicators of the flu.
People who believe they have the flu should see a doctor as soon as possible to start taking Tamiflu, which will reduce the length and severity of the flu.
“Just general hygiene – covering your cough, washing your hands, staying home if you feel sick,” Peulen said.
“And the other important thing is taking care of yourself year-round. We see that folks who exercise and eat healthy and make those healthy choices have a stronger immune system and that helps as well.”
Puelen cautioned that although people can start getting their flu shots back in September and October, flu season tends to peak in January and Feburary, sometimes into March.
Therefore, it’s not too late to get a flu vaccine if you haven’t already, to help reduce the risk of getting sick.
“You can absolutely still get the flu if you’ve been vaccinated, but it’s not going to be as severe,” she said.
During the 2012-2013 flu season, Pueblo had 32 hospitalized cases and one death – meaning this year’s numbers are already double that as flu season reaches its peak.