Help preserve hospital capacity by getting all recommended vaccines and staying home when sick
STATEWIDE (Nov. 4, 2022) — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment continues to monitor increases in respiratory viruses, including flu, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), and COVID-19. CDPHE is supporting the coordination of hospitals as they plan for the possibility of more cases. Cases are also occurring earlier than usual in the respiratory illness season.
Coloradans can help prevent respiratory viruses by:
Getting vaccinated. Both flu and COVID-19 have effective, safe vaccines. Anyone 6 months and older can get vaccinated for flu and COVID-19. It is safe to get the vaccines together.
Seeing or calling a health care provider or doctor before going to a busy emergency department when you or your child has respiratory symptoms. Your provider can help you determine the best ways to manage symptoms and when it is important to be seen in the clinic, urgent care, or emergency department.
Staying home when sick, including not visiting or interacting with people who may be at higher risk, including older adults, young children, and infants. This is key to preventing the spread of viruses and causing outbreaks which put additional strain on the hospital system.
Washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or with hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol.
Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or upper arm sleeve when you cough or sneeze, throw away the tissue after you use it, and clean hands as instructed above.
Cleaning potentially contaminated surfaces, like doorknobs, tables, handrails, etc.
Avoiding sharing cups, eating utensils, and touching your face with unwashed hands.
“As the weather gets colder, more people are spending more time indoors, and viruses are more likely to spread indoors,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, CDPHE. “We have three respiratory viruses circulating right now, but we can all help reduce disease transmission by getting vaccinated, isolating when sick, and maintaining good hand hygiene, which can help lessen the strain on our health care system. What might feel like a mild cold for one person can be very serious for another person, especially infants, young children, someone who is immunocompromised, or older adults.”
Child care centers and schools can also play an active role in preventing the spread through increased handwashing, disinfecting surfaces and areas, and strict adherence to and implementing their illness policies. CDPHE is in frequent communication with K-12 schools, preschool programs, and child care facilities to provide information about RSV, including strategies to reduce transmission. Since the beginning of October, CDPHE has shared resources, such as the updated 2022-23 Guidance for Prevention & Control of Non-COVID-19 Respiratory Illnesses in Schools and Child Care Settings, How Sick is Too Sick tool, and Infectious Disease in School and Child Care Settings.
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According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this flu season could be more severe than we have seen in years. CDC data shows increasing seasonal flu activity across the United States. The southeast and south central regions are currently reporting the highest levels of flu activity. In some southeastern states, flu hospitalization rates are already at levels seen during the fall 2009 H1N1 pandemic. CDC estimates that, so far this season, there have been at least 1,600,000 flu illnesses, 13,000 hospitalizations, and 730 deaths from flu in the United States. Two flu-associated pediatric deaths have been reported for the 2022-2023 season.
In Colorado, 25 people were hospitalized with flu during the week ending Oct. 29, 2022, for a total of 49 people hospitalized since Oct. 2. Visit CDPHE’s flu webpage for the Colorado Flu & RSV Report, which tracks flu and RSV numbers in the state and updates weekly.
Anyone aged 6 months or older can get their annual flu vaccine. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones, and our community. You can safely get the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine, including the new omicron vaccine, during the same visit, if it is offered. The state health department recommends:
Adults 65 years and older should get one of three specific flu vaccine types: the Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent vaccine, Flublok quadrivalent recombinant flu vaccine, or the Fluad quadrivalent adjuvanted flu vaccine. If one of these three is not available, people 65 years and older can get any other age-appropriate influenza vaccine.
Children younger than 9 years who are either getting the flu vaccine for the first time or have only previously received one dose of the vaccine should get two doses of the vaccine. The first dose should be given as soon as possible during the flu season. The second dose should be given at least 28 days after the first dose.
Ideally, those who are pregnant should get vaccinated before the end of October, as they may have more serious complications if they get the flu. The flu vaccine can be given in any trimester of pregnancy.
Medicare, Medicaid, CHP+, and most private health insurers cover the full cost of the flu vaccine. You don’t have to pay anything to health care providers that accept your health plan. If you don’t have health insurance, you can still get the flu vaccine for free at certain health care providers. Free vaccine providers, as well as additional information on flu vaccines, can be found at fluvaxcolorado.org. Protect yourself and your loved ones against the flu by contacting your health care provider, local public health agency, or pharmacy to make a vaccine appointment today.
Colorado, along with multiple regions across the United States, has seen a sharp increase in reported RSV outbreaks and hospitalizations. From Oct. 1-29, 2022, there have been 367 RSV-associated hospitalizations in the five-county Denver metropolitan area (Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson counties) and 57 outbreaks in child care and school settings statewide. Among these outbreaks, more than half have had at least one person involved in the outbreak seek care at a hospital. Hospital reports indicate that the increase in RSV cases is putting a strain on the pediatric health care system as 95% of current RSV hospitalizations are among children. Based on previous patterns, high levels of RSV transmission are expected to continue for at least several weeks.
RSV causes respiratory tract illness in people of all ages, but infants, young children, and older adults are at greater risk of severe illness from RSV. It spreads by inhaling or having contact with virus-containing droplets (typically through the mouth, nose, or eyes) produced by a person with RSV infection when talking, coughing, and sneezing. While most people who get RSV will only have cold symptoms, it may be more severe in infants and young children, as well as older adults. Symptoms can include a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, or coughing, and can also include fever, decreased appetite, and difficulty breathing or wheezing.
If your child is demonstrating early signs of respiratory distress or other symptoms of RSV, consider taking them to their primary care doctor for evaluation. Call or see your pediatrician or other health care provider before going to an emergency department.
Coloradans can find more information about RSV rates in Colorado on CDPHE’s website — this page updates weekly on Wednesday to include data through Saturday of the previous week.
Colorado is also experiencing a defined upward trend in cases of COVID-19. Percent positivity is increasing, and cases and hospitalizations in Colorado have increased slightly in recent weeks. BA.5 remains the most prevalent subvariant, and BQ.1, BQ.1.1, and BF.7 are emerging and could accelerate transmission in the coming weeks. People who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate and consider treatment to help them recover.
Anyone aged 5 years and older who has completed a COVID-19 primary vaccine series should get an omicron vaccine to increase their protection against the dominant subvariants circulating in Colorado right now. People should get their omicron vaccine at least two months after their most recent dose — either their completed primary series or third (booster) dose. It takes two weeks for COVID-19 vaccines to be fully effective, so November 10 is the last day to get a vaccine in order to have the highest level of protection available by Thanksgiving.