Boulder County health officials recommend flu vaccines as cases rise, hospitals reach capacity

COVID-19 surge strains hospitals; flu season still to come

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From our friends at: www.dailycamera.com

Boulder County health officials are urging people to get an influenza vaccine after a recent rise in flu cases has health care providers worried that the spreading virus might overwhelm hospitals that are already reaching capacity.

Urgent care and emergency rooms recently notified Boulder County Public Health of a rise in flu cases primarily among people 18 to 25 years old in Boulder, according to a news release from BCPH. The cases included two hospitalizations.

BCPH is continuously monitoring flu cases in the area as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating several large flu outbreaks on college campuses across the country, the release said.

“We are highly concerned about the potential impacts from a more active flu season,” said Carol Helwig, Boulder County Public Health communicable disease control coordinator, in the news release. “The surge in people impacted by COVID-19 illness in Boulder County over the past few weeks is already creating a substantial strain on hospitals, clinics and our whole health care system, and an active flu season could create an even greater strain and challenges.”

As of Nov. 14, the North Central Region Healthcare Coalition, which includes Boulder County, reported that over a seven-day average, 95% of staffed intensive care unit beds and medical and surgical beds were occupied.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 10 people have been hospitalized from the flu since Oct. 3.

The flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses but are caused by different viruses, the release said. The SARS-CoV-2 virus has several variants, including the delta strain, which causes the COVID-19 illness. Seasonal flu is caused by one of several influenza viruses, such as A(H1N1), A(H3N2) or an Influenza B virus. The symptoms of the flu virus and SARS-CoV-2 are very similar, and it is possible to be infected with both viruses simultaneously.

A 2021 study found that flu vaccination in adults resulted in a 26% lower risk of ICU admission and a 31% lower risk of death from flu than those who were unvaccinated, according to the release.

Anyone 6 months or older is eligible to receive the flu vaccine, the release said.

“The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against serious illness caused by flu is to get vaccinated every flu season,” said Keith Rawls, Boulder County Public Health immunization program coordinator, in the news release. “It is safe for everyone to get the COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time, and many providers are offering both vaccines at select locations.”

BCPH advises people to stay home if they are not feeling well and to talk with a health care provider as soon as possible to determine the cause of the illness, the release said.

“By simply getting your flu shot, you can help reduce the burden on local hospitals and our health care workers,” said Helwig.

A list of Boulder County COVID-19 vaccine providers is available at boco.org/CovidVaccine. A list of up-to-date flu vaccine providers is available at vaccines.gov/find-vaccines.

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