Flu cases spiked in winter of 2016-17
Number tripled from year before
The number of Mesa County residents hospitalized with the flu soared in 2016-17 to at least a five-year high, and it was triple the number of hospitalizations from the year before.
A total of 168 county residents were hospitalized with the flu or flu-like symptoms between the first week of October 2016 and the first week of June of this year. The peak of hospitalizations was the week of Feb. 11.
Mesa County Public Health spokeswoman Katie Goddeyne noted that the most recent year that compared to 2016-17 in terms of hospitalizations was 2014-15, when 122 Mesa County residents were admitted. By comparison, there were 53 hospitalizations in 2015-16.
“We surpassed that this year,” Goddeyne said of the 2014-15 figure. “It’s always startling to see it go up.”
There were 17 deaths during the most recent flu season primarily attributed to the flu and pneumonia. Of those deaths, 76 percent were people over the age of 65.
Sixty-three percent of county residents hospitalized were over the age of 65. Roughly a third of the hospitalizations were for people ages 18 to 64.
Goddeyne said there’s not one reason officials can pinpoint to explain the spike in influenza cases. Factors may include the number of people who were vaccinated for the flu last year and how well the flu vaccine was matched to the flu strains it was designed to guard against. Thorough hand-washing practices and keeping yourself and family members at home when they are sick can help stem the spread of the flu, she said.
“For me personally, the big takeaway is the big cost to be hospitalized,” Goddeyne said. “If it’s pricey for me as a consumer, I would rather get the shot and get that coverage than end up in the hospital down the road.”
The average cost of receiving a flu shot is $35. To calculate the cost of a hospitalization, add three zeros to that sum. It costs an average of nearly $30,000 to be hospitalized with the flu, according to county health officials. The 2016-17 flu season saw more people hospitalized than in the 2009-10 flu season, when the H1N1 flu pandemic spread across Mesa County and 117 people were hospitalized with the flu.
Goddeyne said Mesa County Public Health will work to encourage county residents to receive a flu shot during the upcoming flu season. General guidelines suggest people receive a vaccination before the end of October. However, the timing is tricky because getting a flu shot too early in the season might not contain the correct antibodies to combat the strains health professionals believe might be the most prevalent for that year. A vaccine takes about two weeks to take effect.
“Every year we want people to be vaccinated,” Goddeyne said. “It’s one more thing we can do to fight the flu. It’s never fair to say that vaccine is a match 100 percent. But between the vaccine, hand-washing, and staying at home when you’re sick, you can fight it.”