Local doctors and health clinics have seen a spike in the number of sick people they’re treating with either nasty colds or full-blown cases of Influenza in recent weeks, according to government officials.
The increase in cases began around the Christmas/New Year holidays as tourists arrived and families gathered indoors.
“Flu season normally arrives a little later in the winter season,” said Liz Stark, director of Community Health Services, a nonprofit that provides assistance to Pitkin County. “The number of Influenza illnesses usually reaches its peak in late January and February. The entire country is seeing an early spike in the number of cases and an increase in the number of hospitalizations, particularly compared to last year. Influenza is a very serious, contagious virus that has the potential to make you very sick.”
There is widespread flu activity nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the percentage of Americans going to the hospital with the flu has doubled within the last month.
Local health officials report that there have been no local hospitalizations related to the flu to date but they admit “it’s not a matter of if, but when.”
Doctors still recommend getting a flu shot. Shots are recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Experts say that this year’s vaccine is a good match for the viruses that are circulating currently. Severe complications of the virus are most common in children under age 2 and among the elderly.
“It’s not too late to get a flu shot if you didn’t get one in the fall,” said Stark. “It takes about two weeks to develop full immunity after receiving the flu shot but we still have a few more months to go before the season is officially over.”
Flu shots are available by appointment at Community Health Services in Aspen and a walk-in flu shot clinic is planned for Wednesday, Jan. 16 from 3-6 p.m. at the clinic, located at 0405 Castle Creek Rd., across from Aspen Valley Hospital. For more information call 920-5420.