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Too Soon to Say How Bad Season Will Get, but Experts Advise Don’t Delay in Getting Flu Shots

December 6, 2018

Rachael Ramos gets a flu shot at Centura Health Physician Group Primary Care in Longmont in October. State experts are advising not to delay in getting vaccinated.

Health experts are not sure if the new flu season will be like last year’s record-breaking outbreak. But they are sure Coloradans can no longer delay getting their flu shots.

“We would not recommend waiting any longer,” said Rachel Herlihy, the state’s communicable disease epidemiologist. “Now is the right time to do it because it takes two weeks for the vaccine to get to its full strength. It’s not advisable to wait much longer.”

Last year, Colorado had its worst flu season on record, with 4,650 Coloradans hospitalized with the flu. There also were 183 outbreaks in the state’s nursing homes last season.

This flu season is off to a slower start than in 2017-18, which peaked in late December and early January. So far this year, 57 people have been hospitalized due to flu and only one outbreak has been reported, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That is down from 210 cases around the same time last year, according to a news release from UC Health.

But conditions can change quickly, Herlihy said. “This season’s peak could be a little later. But you have to remember flu season is unpredictable. It’s really impossible to tell yet how it’s going to go.”

This season’s vaccine is standing up well to the latest flu virus strain, she said. “There have been no concerns as far as we know.”

Getting a flu shot is the best way to prevent getting the flu, and cases are expected to begin rising in the coming weeks as people shop, travel and attend holiday gatherings, according to UCHealth.

UCHealth is requiring visitors at its clinics and hospitals to wear masks if they are exhibiting flu symptoms and barring anyone with symptoms and anyone younger than 12 from entering high risk areas, such as the intensive care unit.

Flu symptoms include a dry, hacking cough, moderate to high fever, sore throat, shaking chills, severe muscle and body aches and a serious headache. A person also can have severe fatigue, runny nose, upper respiratory symptoms and sometimes, mostly in children, nausea and vomiting. Adults often experience a loss of appetite as well.

Staff writer John Bear contributed to this report.

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