COLORADO — Last year’s record-setting number of flu hospitalizations in Colorado is a clear reminder of how serious and unpredictable the virus can be.
As flu season gets underway, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment urges flu vaccines for Coloradans ages six months and older, ideally before the end of October.
“The flu vaccine helps you stay at work, in school and enjoying all Colorado has to offer,” said State Communicable Disease Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy. “Flu vaccination can keep you and others from getting sick, make your illness milder if you do get sick, and help you stay out of the hospital.”
From Oct. 1, 2017 through May 26, 2018, 4,650 Coloradans were hospitalized with flu. This is the highest number of hospitalizations recorded for a flu season in Colorado.
Flu cases start to increase in October and typically peak in late December or early January before dropping off in the spring. Since it takes two weeks for the vaccine to take effect, October is the ideal time to get it.
“This year, there are more flu vaccine options than ever, especially for young children and people with egg allergies,” said Lynn Trefren, immunization branch manager at the state health department. “Check with your health care provider or vaccination clinic for help choosing the best one for you.”
To find flu vaccines at retail outlets, visit vaccinefinder.org. People who need help paying for flu vaccine should contact their local public health agencies.
State health experts emphasize the role flu vaccine plays in protecting vulnerable people. Last season, there were 183 outbreaks associated with flu in long-term care facilities, the highest number ever recorded in Colorado.
“Healthy people usually recover from the flu, but getting a shot keeps you from spreading the virus to people 65 and older, children under five, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions,” Herlihy said. “Adults 65 and older should be sure to get a flu vaccine every year, and check whether they have had a pneumococcal vaccine.”
To stay informed, visit the department’s flu web page. The department’s Colorado Flu Report, which tracks flu numbers in the state, starts Oct. 9.