With winter just around the corner and flu season well underway, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is urging state residents to get flu vaccinations.
The department says that this year it is tracking four flu strains rather than the usual three.
Options for administering the vaccine include a traditional needle, as well as a quadrivalent dose (it contains four antigens), delivered as a nasal spray. For those afraid of standard shots and leery of a spray, there is also now an intradermal vaccine that uses a small, thin needle and goes only into the skin rather than piercing the muscle.
There is also a new trivalent vaccine available for people with severe allergies to eggs, which are used in standard flu vaccination production. It is only recommended for those 18 to 49. There is a high dose version approved for those 65 and older.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that anyone older than six months get a flu vaccine. Children between the ages of six months to eight years who have never received a flu vaccine should get two doses of the vaccine spaced at least four weeks apart.
The 2012-13 flu season in Colorado saw more than 1,500 hospitalizations and five pediatric deaths caused by influenza. The CDC reports that those at the highest risk of getting the flu include those 65 years and older, children younger than five and pregnant women with any chronic medical condition.
According to the CDC website, vaccine manufacturers now estimate 138-145 million doses of influenza vaccine will be produced for the U.S. market this season. (This is an increase from their initial estimate of 135-139 million.) An estimated 30 million to 32 million of these doses will be quadrivalent flu vaccine. The rest will be trivalent flu vaccine.
Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.
Those looking for a location to get vaccinated or to determine vaccine availability can visit http://flushot.healthmap.org/. The map can be programmed for neighborhoods or specific zip codes and covers vaccines for other ailments such as Shingles and Hepatitis.
Mike Pearson is a 30-year veteran of newspaper and magazine journalism and former Features Editor at the Rocky Mountain News. He currently teaches journalism at Metropolitan State University of Denver.