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Public Health Emerging Issues: Minimal Flu Activity for 2020-21 Season

Public Health Emerging Issues: Minimal Flu Activity for 2020-21 Season

Public Health Emerging Issues

March 2, 2021

MINIMAL FLU ACTIVITY LOCALLY, REGIONALLY, AND NATIONALLY 

 

  • There has been minimal influenza (flu) activity in Mesa County so far for the 2020-21 season with 0 (zero) hospitalizations due to influenza.
  • The average number of hospitalizations over the past four years in Mesa County is approximately 163 per season.
  • In looking at data from the previous four influenza seasons the 2019-20 season had the lowest number of hospitalizations (77) while the 2017-18 season had the highest (232).
  • Although the rate of influenza-related hospitalizations has decreased both locally and across the country in the 2020-21 season, flu testing is being conducted as usual.
    • Hospital labs in Mesa County have performed 2,271 flu tests this season with only two positive results (.08%).
  • Influenza activity traditionally intensifies with peak hospitalizations in our area occurring in February or March.
  • The Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) clinic has administered 1,957 flu vaccine doses so far this season. Last season, 2,110 flu shots were administered at MCPH.
  • The state of Colorado has seen 24 influenza-related hospitalizations so far in the 2020-21 season. As a comparison, during the 2019-2020 influenza season, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recorded 3,546 influenza-related hospitalizations. 
  • There have been no pediatric influenza-related deaths in Colorado so far this season.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports an unusually mild influenza season across the country for the 2020-21 season.
    • The current cumulative hospitalization rate across the U.S. is 0.6 per 100,000 population according to the CDC. 
    • By comparison in 2011-12, a low severity season, the rate was 1.6 times higher at this point in the season.
    • The CDC estimates that 193 million influenza vaccine doses were administered nationwide through January 15, 2021.
  • Public health professionals believe the reduction in influenza-related hospitalizations this season (2020-21) is a result of social distancing and sanitation measures implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19. 
  • To protect yourself against influenza, wash your hands regularly with soap and water, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and stay away from sick people. Just like COVID-19, staying home when you start to feel sick is an important step to stop the spread of illness. 
  • It’s not too late to get your flu shot. The MCPH Clinic has flu vaccine available and cost is never a barrier.
  • Stay up to date by visiting the MCPH Flu-View page, click here for additional flu data and information.
MCPH Has Flu Vaccine Available

MCPH Has Flu Vaccine Available

Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) has flu vaccine available and is currently scheduling appointments. The best way to protect yourself from the flu this fall and winter is to get vaccinated. It’s a safe and effective way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy. 

Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness characterized by fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue, body aches and headache. To avoid getting the flu, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the seasonal flu vaccine for individuals ages 6 months and older. Annual flu shots are necessary to protect against seasonal strains of the flu.

Symptoms of COVID-19 and flu are very similar. Older populations as well as those with underlying conditions are more susceptible to COVID-19 and the flu, but the flu also hits children particularly hard. There were three pediatric deaths in Colorado during the 2019-2020 flu season, and 77 hospitalizations in residents of all ages Mesa County. 

Get Vaccinated Every Year

  • Every year the flu changes, so you need an updated vaccine to ensure your body develops immunity to the most recent strain of the virus. 
  • After the vaccination, it takes approximately two weeks for the body to develop an immune response. That’s why Mesa County Public Health recommends residents get immunized now.

Mesa County Public Health is hosting two drive thru flu clinics during the month of October, all residents are welcome. Don’t let cost be a barrier, we have options for those who do not have insurance.

What:   Drive Thru Flu Clinic

When:  October 17, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

 October 24, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Where: Mesa County Public Health

              510 29 ½ Road

The MCPH Clinic offers flu vaccination during regular business hours, Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. We urge all residents who want to get a flu vaccine to come to a flu clinic, or call 970-248-6900 to make an appointment.

Have a Happy, Healthy Holiday

Have a Happy, Healthy Holiday

Since the norovirus-like illness that impacted our community around the Thanksgiving holiday, Mesa County Public Health has been monitoring illness to an even greater degree than usual. As a result of that enhanced monitoring, we have been made aware of increased illness at least one local school heading into Winter Break. 

The reports we received of increased illness were on Thursday (12/19) and Friday (12/20). The symptoms are similar to what we saw in November, with most cases reporting vomiting. In addition, there are also reports of fever with this illness. As of this (Friday) afternoon, District 51 schools are out of session for Winter Break.  

Mesa County Public Health is concerned about the spread of illness into our community. This time of year, the chance of getting sick increases as we all gather together. To remain healthy, we’re asking our community to take steps to prevent the spread of illness. 

We hope these recommendations help ensure you have a happy and healthy holiday.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

To prevent the spread of illness to other people it is very important we all:

  • REMAIN HOME If someone in your family is ill and has symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, and/or a fever, they should stay home until at least 24 hours after symptoms end. 
    • These types of illnesses typically run their course but watch for symptoms of dehydration which include: sunken eyes, dry mouth and tongue, increased thirst, skin that goes back slowly when pinched, and a decrease in volume of urine.
  • KNOW THE RISK Certain groups are at a higher risk of illness, and if you’ve been around someone who’s been sick there’s an increased likelihood you could get sick, too. Many illnesses have what’s called an incubation period, an amount of time between when you’re infected and you actually have symptoms. Keep that in mind, and if you’ve been around or cared for someone who’s been sick, consider limiting interactions. You could be contagious and spreading illness, even when you don’t feel sick yet.
  • WASH HANDS Ensure that all members of your household wash their hands often, especially after using the bathroom, cleaning, changing diapers, or before preparing or eating food. 
    • Cover all parts of hands with soap, rub lathered hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds, and thoroughly rinse hands with water.
    • A hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol can be used if soap and water are not available, but washing with soap and water is best.
  • DISINFECT Some of these illnesses can be difficult to get rid of and particles can live on surfaces for weeks, even months. When you’re cleaning, disinfect using a solution of one cup of regular strength bleach in one gallon of water. Be sure to clean surfaces that are commonly touched like doorknobs, light switches, or remote controls.
  • CONSIDER A FLU SHOT Mesa County Public Health recommends everyone over the age of 6 months get an annual flu vaccine. Influenza is prevalent this season in many areas of the country, including Colorado.  A flu shot is your best protection against severe complications that can arise from influenza. The Mesa County Public Health Clinic, located at 510 29 ½ Road, has flu vaccine available and serves all patients regardless of ability to pay.  
  • CONTACT PUBLIC HEALTH The public vomiting line remains open and allows Mesa County Public Health to follow up with facilities where public vomiting events occur to ensure proper cleanup. To report an incident of public vomiting online click here or call 970-462-7074. 
  • CONTACT A DOCTOR These recommendations are intended to help prevent the further spread of illness, not serve as a diagnosis or medical advice. If you or your child is sick, and you have questions about the symptoms or illness, you should contact a healthcare provider.
MCPH Closely Monitoring Flu Activity: You Can Too With Flu-View

MCPH Closely Monitoring Flu Activity: You Can Too With Flu-View

Flu Season is already hitting parts of the country hard, Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) is closely monitoring activity and you can too with Flu-View.

Mesa County Public Health has once again activated our flu-view on health.mesacounty.us.  This gives our community a real-time way to monitor flu activity in Mesa County and the surrounding areas.

What’s new this year

  • In addition to providing a meter showing hospitalizations for flu, a second meter has been added monitoring flu and flu-like illness activity at primary care offices throughout Mesa County.
  • With activity already high in many parts of the country, this new data source will be a chance for MCPH, our health care provider partners, and the community, to monitor local activity.
  • Also added is an influenza type tracker where you can see which type of influenza is impacting our region.
    • So far this season, unlike the severe start in some other areas, Mesa County’s predominant strain is influenza A. However, in the last week, we have seen more positive tests for influenza B. This could be an indication of increased activity in the weeks to come.
    • Influenza B can be more severe in young children. Vaccinating your children is the best protection against influenza. Caregivers and other adults around children should get a vaccine too.
    • The flu vaccine protects against both influenza A and influenza B.
    • It’s not too late to get a flu vaccine. Our clinic, located at 510 29 ½ Road, has vaccine available. Our clinic is open Monday-Thursday 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, no appointment needed.

Things to know about influenza

  • An annual flu vaccine is your best protection from influenza. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot. It can help shorten the severity and has been proven to lead to fewer hospitalizations.
  • Children aged 6 months through 8 years require 2 doses of influenza vaccine during their first season of vaccination to enhance immune response. 
  • Flu can be dangerous for children. Complications from flu include pneumonia, dehydration, sinus problems, and ear infections. Complications can lead to death.
  • The flu spreads mainly by droplets made when people with the virus cough, sneeze or talk. People with flu can spread it to others up to 6 feet away.
  • With the recent gastrointestinal illness outbreak in Mesa County, it’s easy to be confused about the differences between influenza and norovirus.  
    • Influenza is a respiratory virus that affects mainly the lungs.
    • Symptoms of the flu are; cough, sore throat, sudden onset of fever (up to 104 degrees). To read more about the differences between these viruses, click here

Public health recommendations 

  • A flu shot is the first step to prevent influenza but you should also:
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Cover your mouth and nose.
    • Clean your hands frequently, and use soap and water whenever possible.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Routinely clean frequently touched objects at work and home including doorknobs, keyboards, and phones to help remove germs.
  • Stay home if you get sick. Germs spread easily at child care, school, and work, so it’s best to stay home when you’re not feeling well. 
You helped stop the spread of illness in Mesa County. Keep it up to stay healthy this winter (and beyond).

You helped stop the spread of illness in Mesa County. Keep it up to stay healthy this winter (and beyond).

Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) continues to monitor illness in our community, and while initial indications from student absence reports from D51, community illness reports, and data from visits to primary care providers give us reason to believe the illness is dwindling, we are still seeing reports of gastrointestinal illness, and a handful of incidents of public vomiting. The levels of illness we are seeing, however, are in line with what we would expect to see this time of year.

These types of illnesses are very common. The rapid spread and large number of people impacted was unique with this outbreak, but viruses like this are around all the time. They typically peak in the winter months when we are all together indoors or other confined spaces. The highly contagious viruses can spread very quickly from person to person as we saw with this outbreak, and the sudden onset of vomiting with this virus made it more widespread than usual.

For your health and the protection of everyone, you should stay home from work or school and keep your kids out of child care if you or they are sick. In addition, MCPH recommends disinfecting high touch surfaces; make sure to do this after you’ve been sick, but sanitizing your surroundings with a cleaner effective against norovirus on a routine basis never hurts, as these types of viruses can live on surfaces for weeks.

Perhaps the most effective way to stop the spread of illness, and to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands. Studies have shown that handwashing can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related sicknesses. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. But whenever possible, wash your hands with soap and water. When you wash:

  • Wet your hands with clean running water, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together.  Don’t forget the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub for 20 seconds. How long is that?  Hum the “Happy Birthday” song, twice.
  • Rinse your hands under running water.
  • Dry using a clean towel or air dry.

In addition, it is influenza season and flu activity is increasing across the country. There has already been one person hospitalized due to influenza, or the flu, in Mesa County. Statewide, more than 150 hospitalizations have occurred already this season. Unlike the gastrointestinal illness that impacted our community, there is a vaccine available to protect against the flu. MCPH recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine each year. Our clinic, located at 510 29 ½ Road, has vaccine available, walk-ins are welcome for flu shots, no appointment needed.

MCPH Clinic has Flu Vaccine

MCPH Clinic has Flu Vaccine

The Mesa County Public Health Clinic has flu vaccine available. If you hear from your physician’s office or a pharmacy that they are out of the flu vaccine, come see us. We want to inform our community that our clinic does still have the flu vaccine, including the high-dose option, recommended for those over the age of 65.

So far this season, two people have been hospitalized in Mesa County with the influenza virus.  Flu is a serious illness and can be deadly for older adults, infants and people with underlying medical conditions, so vaccination is important for all community members. “We know that the flu vaccine is our best defense to fight the flu. We also know that if you do get the flu and you’ve been vaccinated, your symptoms will be less severe and it’s less likely you’ll be hospitalized,” Mesa County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Kuhr said. The vaccine takes two weeks to offer full protection. 

It’s also vital to stay home if you’re sick so that you don’t spread illness at work or school. Good handwashing is also a great defense against the flu and any other illness that may be circulating.

The MCPH Clinic offers flu vaccination during regular business hours – Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon – walk-ins are welcome, no appointment needed. Cost is not a barrier at the MCPH Clinic, we have options. We urge all residents who want to get a flu vaccine to come in and see us or give us a call with any questions.