Some key things to know about the flu season:
THE SITUATION: The annual influenza (flu) season hit about a month early this year, and illness is now widespread in 47 states. Many cases are caused by a flu strain that tends to make people sicker. But so far experts say it's too early to know whether this will end up being a bad season. Maybe not: There are signs the flu may have already peaked in a few states, though it's too early to tell for sure, health officials say.
THE VACCINE: This season's vaccine is well matched to the circulating strains, and there's still some available. It is 62 percent effective, according to government study results released Friday, which is pretty good for a flu vaccine. Health officials are urging people to get vaccinated; it's recommended for everyone 6 months or older.
THE DEFENSE: Besides getting a flu shot, wash hands with soap and warm water, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Keep away from sick people.
THE TREATMENT: Most people will get a mild case and can help themselves and protect others by staying home and resting. But people with severe symptoms should see a doctor. They may be given antiviral drugs or other medications to ease symptoms.
COLD OR FLU?: Influenza is not the only bug making people sick. The cold virus and a nasty stomach virus are also going around. It can sometimes be hard to tell the difference, but cold symptoms include stuffy or runny nose, sore throat and sneezing. Flu usually involves fever, along with chills, headache and moderate-to-severe body aches and tiredness. Symptoms can come on rapidly, within three to six hours.
The flu in Colorado
For the week ending Jan. 5, influenza activity remained elevated. For the week ending Dec. 29, and the week ending Jan. 5, influenza A viruses were the predominant circulating type.
• There were 136 additional hospitalizations reported; 50 with a collection date during a previous week and 86 with a collection date during the most recent week. The cumulative total of hospitalizations was 506 from 33 counties. Due to reporting delays, it is expected that the number of influenza-associated hospitalizations for the week ending 1/05 will increase as cases diagnosed between 12/30 – 1/05 are subsequently reported.
• Influenza-like illness reported by Kaiser Permanente for the Denver-Boulder metropolitan area was 2.9% (compared to 3.1% the previous week). Influenza-like illness reported by Mesa County was 1.4% (compared to 2.0% the previous week).
• Sentinel hospital labs (16/19 reporting) tested 1801 specimens and provisionally 342 (19%) were positive (compared to 22.2% the previous week). Of these, only 131 (38%) were positive for influenza B.
• For the most recent week, 40 additional specimens (out of 43 submitted) tested positive for influenza by PCR at the state laboratory. Of these, 26 (65%) tested positive for Influenza A (H3). Since the season began on October 7th, among 270 PCR positive specimens tested at the state laboratory, 123 (46%) have subtyped as H3, 6 (2%) as 2009 H1N1, and 141 (52%) as type B.
• There were two additional outbreaks reported, one in a Douglas County LTCF and one in a Boulder County LTCF, both were confirmed as influenza A.