EAGLE COUNTY — An Eagle County woman is dead and five other locals have been hospitalized as this year’s flu season hits full stride.
The flu claimed the life of Veronica Moreno Castillo, 40, of Edwards. She died Dec. 28, at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs of N1H1 Type A influenza, according to the Garfield County coroner’s office.
Moreno was in good health before she was stricken with the virus, her friends say. She was the mother of three children, ranging in ages from high school to elementary school.
Eagle County Public Health Director Jennifer Ludwig is urging everyone who has not had a flu shot to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“While we do see flu every year, this year we’re seeing it in a different demographic than we usually do,” Ludwig said.
This year’s most prevalent strain is the H1N1 virus, Ludwig said. You can get one of two flu shots, and either will help protect you, Ludwig said.
“We have seen more activity early in the flu season than we have in past years. We don’t know if that will continue to be the case, but we’re urging people to take precautions,” she said.
It isn’t too late to get vaccinated, Ludwig said. Those who don’t have health insurance can come to Eagle County’s public health office to either get their flu shot or schedule an appointment, she said.
Statewide, hospitalizations for influenza surged in December to 448, compared to 373 at the same time last year, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“The surge in hospitalizations due to flu is concerning,” said Dr. Lisa Miller, state epidemiologist. “We normally see higher flu numbers among the young and elderly, but this year there are more cases among people ages 25 to 64. We encourage anyone who hasn’t been immunized this year to get a flu vaccination now.”
Last year, people ages 25 to 64 accounted for 30 percent of all cases; right now those people make up 57 percent of all cases.
Though Colorado doesn’t formally track flu deaths among adults, thousands of people in the U.S. die every year due to influenza.
It takes about two weeks after the vaccination for your body to build the antibodies to protect you from flu.
People at high risk of serious complications from seasonal influenza include those 65 years and older, children younger than 5 years, pregnant women and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions.
Colds vs. flu
Colds are slow to begin; the flu feels like you’ve been hit by a truck, Ludwig said.
The best thing you can do is stay home and take care of yourself. You’ll do no one any good, and quite possibly do them harm, by going to school or work when you’re sick, Ludwig said.
“We get concerned with people who want to go to work, or who send their children to school when they’re suffering from the flu,” Ludwig said. “We all have work to do, but we encourage people to stay home and take care of themselves.”
Across Colorado this flu season, 448 people from 34 counties have been hospitalized with the flu, according to the Colorado Department of Health.
“It’s hard to compare data from year to year because the flu virus changes from year to year. That’s why it’s important to get vaccinated ever year,” Ludwig said.
What is flu?
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. Symptoms can include fever, sore throat, cough, stuffy nose, chills, headache, body aches and fatigue.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over 6 months old get a flu shot.
The timing of flu is unpredictable and can vary from season to season, says the Centers for Disease Control. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February, but seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue as late as May, the CDC says.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.