Record flu season for Colorado, US

Record flu season in Colorado and US

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – As the current flu season winds down in a few weeks, it may build on the record already set in Colorado and across the country for flu patients in hospitals.

According to state and national health officials, more than 21,000 in the U.S. sought hospital care for flu symptoms between Oct. 1 and March 24, with nearly half going to emergency rooms.

Of that number, 4,310 are in Colorado and 455 are in El Paso County.

Among those seeking hospital treatment was Rosalyn Kriner, a former Colorado Springs teacher.

“(The flu) almost killed me,” she said.  “I was at Penrose Hospital for several days.”

Kriner said her bout with the flu was worsened by a pre-existing health condition; the combination made breathing difficult, required five blood transfusions and forced her to take blood-thinning medication to prevent clotting in her lungs.

“I didn’t get a flu shot before all this but they gave me Tamiflu at the ER,” she said.  “I thought I was done.”

Kriner has since moved to Georgia where she can breathe easier at a lower altitude.

Also affected was KRDO NewsChannel 13 reporter Stephanie Sierra, who missed three days of work and was sick for a week.

“And I had a flu shot,” she said.  “But it became hard to breathe and swallow.  I went to the urgent care clinic, and to the ER the next day.  I almost had a spinal tap because they thought I had meningitis.”

Sierra said antibiotics, over-the-counter medications and plenty of rest helped her recover.

Hayley Zachary, a disease expert for El Paso County Public Health, explained why so many people were sickened by the two flu main strains this season.

“We don’t know if it was the flu strains themselves,” she said.  “There could be a number of different factors going on there — including the flu strains themselves but it also could be the number of people getting vaccinated, people choosing not to get vaccinated, or it could be a more virulent strain that is causing more people to become infected.”

Zachary said she’s not surprised by the record numbers for hospital care.

“There’s a lot of questions about modern medicine and Western medicine, and vaccination in particular,” she said.  “We’re beginning to develop a culture that is very questioning of the importance and use of vaccines.”

Zachary advises people who have yet to get a flu shot, to do so.

“It’s not too late,” she said.  “The season is winding down but you can still get infected.  A shot may nor prevent you from getting sick but it can help ease the symptoms.”

Nationally, most of the people seeking treatment were 65 and older or 6 and younger.  An El Paso County child died from the flu this season.

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