Diagnosed cases of Influenza in Pitkin County have surpassed last year’s levels so far this flu season. A select sample of medical providers in Pitkin County report that of the total number of patients they have seen 5.4% have presented with flu-like symptoms so far this flu season. That’s well above last year’s statewide average baseline of 3%.
“We have seen a couple of hospitalized flu cases locally, which is about average for our area,” said Pitkin County Public Health Epidemiologist, Carlyn Porter. “Flu activity in non-hospitalized patients rose above baseline the week of Christmas and has remained elevated since. We’re seeing the same pattern statewide,” Porter said.
The strain of flu that doctors locally and across the state are seeing is the H3N2 strain which in previous years has been associated with more hospitalizations and deaths. Antiviral treatment is recommended for hospitalized patients; children under age 5 (and especially for those under age 2); adults age 65 years and older; pregnant women and those up to two weeks postpartum; and individuals with underlying health problems.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says it believes the vaccine efficacy is about 30%, which is similar to last year, but total efficacy rates are not available until mid-February.
“Even if the flu vaccine missed the bullseye, Pitkin County Public Health and the public health officials we work closely with continue to promote the benefits of getting the vaccine, said Pitkin County Public Health Director, Karen Koenemann. “It’s not harmful and can help to reduce the severity and duration of illness. It’s definitely not too late for the vaccine to do some good this flu season,” Koenemann said.