Flu virus dwarfs the impact of coronavirus in Colorado, elsewhere

The typical flu in Colorado is still responsible for more hospitalizations and pediatric deaths than the headline-grabbing novel coronavirus, say health officials.

The coronavirus has sickened more than 43,000 people since it first emerged last month and killed at least 1,018, according to world health officials. The Centers for Disease Control now says there are now 12 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States.

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But as far as severity and sheer numbers impacted, the coronavirus takes a back seat to the common flu influenza virus. The flu has already struck at least 22 million Americans and led to 210,000 hospitalizations. The CDC estimates as many as 12,000 Americans have died from the flu this year and the flu season is far from over.

Overall, hospitalization rates remain similar to this time during recent season, but rates among children and young adults are higher at this time than in recent seasons. The CDC gave no explanation for the hike in hospital stays for young members of the population.

In Colorado, the flu is responsible for three pediatric deaths and 1,735 hospitalizations. The flu virus is also considered widespread in the state and prompted 27 outbreaks in long-term care facilities reported during the 2019-20 flu season.

“We understand that a new virus is always very worrisome and gets a lot of attention, “said Rachel Herlihy, Colorado’s state epidemiologist for communicable diseases. “But the risk of anyone in Colorado catching this virus is really quite low. In fact, it is quite low throughout the United States. I would say you are much more likely to encounter the flu.”

The Colorado flu season is fairly typical this season except for the early arrival of the Influenza B circulating strain in the fall. Influenza A usually shows up in November and not B, Herlihy said.

Influenza B is also more stable than A and less likely to cause a pandemic, she said. There is still no sign the two strains are causing more problems than usual, Herlihy said, adding the flu vaccine is effective in counteracting both strains.

Colorado is also on par with other states as far as flu activity, she said. Throughout the winter, the flu virus will circulate and won’t abate until early spring.

It is still not too late to get a flu shot, she said, adding it can lessen the severity of the flu virus.