Executive director and chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Dr. Chris Urbina recommends the influenza vaccination for people who have not yet been vaccinated this season and antiviral treatment as early as possible for people who get sick and are at high risk of flu complications.
"While the timing of influenza seasons is impossible to predict, based on past experience it's likely that flu activity will continue for some time," Dr. Urbina said.
As of Jan. 12 the state has reported a total of 674 cases, from 36 counties, of people hospitalized with the flu. Two additional pediatric deaths were confirmed - one from Denver County and one from El Paso County - bring the total of pediatric deaths from flu this season to four.
"Anyone who has not already been vaccinated should do so now," Dr. Urbina said. "It's important to remember that people who have severe influenza illness, or who are at high risk of serious influenza-related complications, should get treated with influenza antiviral medications if they get flu symptoms - regardless of whether or not they got vaccinated. People who are ill with the flu don't need to wait for a positive laboratory test to start taking antivirals."
So far this season, 91 percent of the influenza viruses that have been analyzed at CDC are like the viruses included in the 2012-2013 influenza vaccine. The match between the vaccine virus and circulating viruses is one factor that affects how well the vaccine works, but other factors are involved. Based on a vaccine effectiveness study just completed by CDC, this year's vaccine is estimated to prevent 62 percent of influenza requiring a doctor visit. While this isn't ideal, vaccination is still the best prevention measure available.
"There is still a supply of flu vaccine available in the state," Dr. Lisa Miller, state epidemiologist, said. "You first should check to see if your doctor has vaccine available. This way, your doctor can document your vaccination. If your doctor is not offering vaccinations, they also are available at some grocery and drug stores."
It is important to note that retail pharmacies and clinics may not be able to offer influenza immunizations to young children. It's best to check with the retail outlet before making the trip to be immunized.
Lastly, local public health agencies may also have a limited supply of flu vaccine.
To see how the flu is spreading nationwide, visit the CDC's FluView report, http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/fluactivitysurv.htm.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)