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RBC I There are confirmed flu cases in Rio Blanco County, the top county health official and the county’s two hospitals report, but the numbers are not high.
Colleen Zufelt, director of the Rio Blanco County Department of Public Health and Environment, as well as officials at both county hospitals, report that there have been a couple of confirmed Type 1 and H1N1 flu cases within the county, but Zufelt stressed it is not too late to get a flu shot now.
“The vaccines protect again two strains of Type A flu, which includes H1N1, and one strain of Type B flu,” Zufelt said. “We are being flooded with people now who are coming in to get their shots, and I believe it is more important this year than it has been because the flu is quite common now in Colorado.
“Colorado has already seen more than double the flu cases it had last year,” she said. “And of the cases confirmed, at least 60 percent have occurred in the age group from 25 to 65 years. For those folks, I would strongly urge a flu shot.”
Zufelt said the flu season peaks in February but continues through March, stressing that it is much easier and cheaper to get the shots now than it would be to treat the flu and its potential complications if someone comes down with the flu later.
She also said that Medicaid and Medicare should take care of the cost for their patients as well as Rocky Mountain Health Plan and that those who pay the $25 cash for the shots may be reimbursed by their personal insurance.
“Flu shots are only good for one year and the public should be vaccinated each year,” Zufelt said. “There is no better time to make an appointment right now with either a person’s doctor, the clinics at the hospitals in Rangely and Meeker or at the county public health offices.”
The county health office in Meeker is located at 345 Market St., and appointments can be made by calling 878-9520. The health office in Rangely is located at 209 E. Main St., and appointments can be made at 878-9525.
According to Zufelt, the chief difference between the flu and a cold is that with the flu, “there is aching all over the body — arms, legs, everywhere.” With a cold, the symptoms are restricted to the upper respiratory system.
She said there are also more strains of flu, and that with the standard flu shot, the symptoms will be lessened and the flu should be shorter in term than without a flu shot.
“We also know there are people out there afraid of getting their flu shots because they believe the vaccine contains the live virus,” Zufelt said. “We at the health department have a vaccine that does not contain the live virus, so their fears are groundless. Some other places do have the vaccine that contains live virus, and I can tell the folks they shouldn’t worry, but if the concern is there, the best thing to do is ask the question where it is they are going for the vaccine.”
A few tips Zufelt offered for avoiding a cold or the flu include getting flu shots as soon as possible, washing one’s hands often and for 20 seconds with soap and warm water, cough or sneeze into your arm so as not to spread germs, staying away from folks with respiratory problems and staying at home if you do have a cold or the flu so you don’t infect coworkers or other members of the public.
“Those who do have colds or particularly the flu need to remember that they need to be fever-free for at least 24 hours before they return to work,” Zufelt said. “Some people believe that they would just as soon be sick at work instead of bored at home. While that may be OK in some cases, colds and the flu should be kept completely out of the work environment.”