Colorado Flu Cases WAY Down This Season
The flu season in Colorado this year has been milder than last year, due in part because so many people have been vaccinated or developed immunity from exposure.
"Three people have died from the flu in Colorado since Oct. 1, 2010 and more than 135 have been hospitalized, officials said Wednesday."
Last year, 61 people had died from flu and more than 2,000 had been hospitalized in Colorado by mid-January. The last state report on the 2009-10 season, issued in May, said 69 had died and 2,041 had been hospitalized.
Last season was a pandemic, which occurs when a new strain of a disease spreads through a population with little or no immunity to it. The new strain was swine flu, or H1N1.
"The virus was able to do what it does, spreading quickly and rapidly, causing lots of illness," said Dr. Ken Gershman, chief of the communicable disease program for the state Department of Public Health and Environment.
"Swine flu has been overshadowed this year by a Type A strain. H1N1 has accounted for about 20 percent of the cases in Colorado this season", said Dr. Michelle Barron, medical director for infection control at the University of Colorado Hospital.
Public awareness of the consequences of flu probably helped encourage more people to get vaccinations this year, Barron said.
Comparing one flu season to another is tricky because there are so many variables.
Improved vaccines, alcohol sanitizers and public awareness have helped combat outbreaks in recent years, Barron said, so it's difficult to know whether the strains of flu circulating now are stronger or weaker than in previous years.
The last flu pandemic in the U.S. was in 1968-69 when the Hong Kong strain was widespread, she said.
Historically, pandemics come about every 10 or 12 years, Barron said.
"We were long overdue for this pandemic when it occurred last year," she said.
The most recent flu death in Colorado was Monday. The health department said the victim was a juvenile from Garfield County, the first juvenile to die of the flu in Colorado this season.
Officials haven't release any other information, but the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports the victim is a 17-year-old boy who attended Rifle High School.
Nationwide, 28 people have died from flu this season, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.