Swine flu cases continue dropping but seasonal flu looms

LAKEWOOD – Swine flu infection rates are dropping sharply in Lakewood, Jefferson County and the state as a whole, but whether it is well past its peak or just in a temporary decline is unclear.

What is clear is that the worst of the annual return of seasonal flu is looming and will be with us until spring, a spokeswoman for the Jeffco Department of Health said Friday.

“With the H1N1, we just don’t know,” said Kodi Bryant. “We don’t know what to expect from it we can’t count it out just yet, even though we are seeing a lull with it. We can’t say that it’s going away because this is the first time we have ever had it.”

Figures for the week of Nov. 28, show the rate of swine flu infection in Jeffco is at it’s lowest point since late August. Only one influenza case required hospitalization in the county that week and that patient had the seasonal flu, not H1N1, according to information from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

Since the Colorado Department of Public Health began tracking flu cases in the state during the summer, 180 Jefferson County residents have required hospital care because of confirmed flu cases. Of those, 131 patients had swine flu. The remaining patients were suffering from seasonal flu. Fifty-six people – nine children and 47 adults – have died from the flu statewide since the end of August.

The state agency’s figures show that 1,888 flu victims have been hospitalized for treatment of the flu in that period.

While only time will tell whether this strain of swine flu will return in full force, supplies of vaccine are growing as is the list of priority recipients who already have been vaccinated against the pandemic disease that began its march across the globe last summer.

The county health agency conducted its first round of public vaccination clinics Nov. 21. Another round is planned Saturday, Dec. 12 and a third date – Dec. 19 – has been added to the schedule, reflecting the increasing availability of the H1N1 vaccine.

The Dec. 12 and Dec. 19 swine flu vaccination clinics, which are coordinated by the county health agency and the Visiting Nurse Association, will be at Alameda High School: 1255 South Wadsworth Boulevard, Lakewood, 9 a.m. – 3: p.m.; Arvada High School: 7951 W. 65th Ave., Arvada, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., Columbine High School: 6201 South Pierce St., Littleton, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.; and Evergreen High School: 29300 Buffalo Park Road., Evergreen, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

As of Friday, the scheduled clinics remain open only to people in high priority groups – children between 6 months and 24 years old, adults 25 years to 64 years of age with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, families and caretakers of children under 6 months of age and health-care workers.

But because many of those in the priority groups were vaccinated in the first round of Jeffco vaccination clinics and the increasing delivery of vaccine, the county is considering opening the scheduled clinics to the general public, Bryant said.

Three Colorado counties – El Paso, Pueblo and Weld – already have widened access to their stocks of swine flu vaccine.

“I would say it’s more likely to happen than not. We are waiting to open that to the general public until we get an official OK from the state,” Bryant said. “The state is looking into that and they told us we would have an answer to us by Monday.”

Meanwhile, health agencies are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“Seasonal (flu) hasn’t really hit us yet, so we are expecting an upturn and, of course, that can last until May,” Bryant said.

Jeffco Health’s stocks of seasonal flu vaccine have been depleted and Bryant suggests that folks contact the Visiting Nurse Association for information on locating those vaccinations.

“They have seasonal vaccine available. They are the only ones that I know of at this point, but we are telling people to go to the Immunize Colorado web site to check,” Bryant said. “I wouldn’t characterize it as in short supply … there are a lot of people who got their (seasonal) vaccinations early.”

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