Spread of flu might be slowing, but officials remain cautious
LAKEWOOD – Flu-related absences in Jeffco schools seem to be leveling off and that trend seems to be reflected in the general population, but county Health Department observers were making no assumptions Tuesday.
“The most predictable thing about influenza is that it is very unpredictable,” said Christine Billings, Jefferson County Public Health Department emergency preparedness epidemiologist.
The Jeffco school district count of absences attributed to flu-like illness was at 1,464 cases Oct. 21, the latest figures available. That is down markedly from the 2,796 absences reported Oct. 12.
But Billings said much of the decline is related to the number of kids sent home with flu-like symptoms, which is recorded in the absences list. Because of a public education campaign urging people to stay home when sick, fewer sick students are showing up at school, so the drop in absences really reflects a leveling trend, Billings said.
“While we have leveled off now that’s not to say,” it will continue, Billings said. “We leveled off in the summer and we saw another peak. We might see another peak and we might see a decline.”
In its latest report on patients with flu symptoms, Kaiser Permanente data indicates the flu has leveled off since the early October and could even be declining somewhat. That is in marked contrast top the steep rise in flu cases the health-care group reported from late August through the end of September.
Since the Colorado Department of Public Health began tracking flu cases in the state during the summer, 83 Jefferson County residents have required hospital care. Twenty people have died statewide since the end of August.
Billings said all the Jeffco cases are swine flu and the seasonal flu remains ahead of us.
Vaccine targeting swine flu remains in tight supply and the county health agency, which has distributed 20,000 doses to those who need it most, plans a series of clinics starting next month to reach children, their family members and other high-priority groups.
The county agency and the Visiting Nurse Association will distribute the remaining limited supply to hose in the high-priority groups who cannot get the vaccine from their private health-care provider, said Nancy Braden, Jeffco Health Department spokeswoman.
The priority groups are children 6 months through 4 years old; children 5 to 18 who have chronic medical conditions; pregnant women; ppeople who live with or care for children younger than 6 months; and health-care and emergency medical services personnel,
The Lakewood clinics will be at Alameda High School, 1255 South Wadsworth Boulevard. Nov. 21, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Other clinics in the county will be at Arvada High School, 7951 W. 65th Ave., Nov. 21 and Dec. 12, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.; Chatfield High School, 7227 S. Simms St., Littleton, Nov. 21, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.; Evergreen High School, 29300 Buffalo Park Road, Nov. 21, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.; and West Jefferson Middle School, 9449 S. Barnes Ave., Conifer, Nov. 21, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Jefferson County residents who are included in the high-priority groups are should complete a consent form before the clinic. The forms can be downloaded at: http://bit.ly/clinics .
Those planning to attend are asked to e-mail Jeffco Health in advance at: firstname.lastname@example.org, say which clinic you plan to attending and which priority group you are in.
The vaccinations are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Each clinic will close when the vaccine is depleted.
Long lines are expected and those waiting may have to stand outside, no matter what the weather.
When more vaccine becomes available, more clinics will be scheduled. The county health agency expects vaccine to be available to the general public by late December or early January, Braden said.