Doctors recommend flu vaccines early this year

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AURORA | The flu is nothing to sneeze at, doctors say, and this year there are a variety of vaccines available to combat it. Area flu specialists recommend that people start visiting their local pharmacies to get vaccinated before October.

“Flu vaccines are arriving in Colorado and it’s a great idea to get the vaccine as soon as it arrives,” said Dr. Lisa Miller, the state epidemiologist for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Michelle Barron, Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at the University of Colorado Hospital, looks for bacterial infections and viruses, Sept. 23 at Anschutz Medical Campus. Doctors are encouraging people to get vaccinated against the flu by October, when flu season starts ramping up. (Danielle Shriver/Aurora Sentinel)
Michelle Barron, Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at the University of Colorado Hospital, looks for bacterial infections and viruses, Sept. 23 at Anschutz Medical Campus. Doctors are encouraging people to get vaccinated against the flu by October, when flu season starts ramping up. (Danielle Shriver/Aurora Sentinel)

This year is a unique year in terms of flu vaccines, she said.

“This is the most variety in different kinds of flu vaccines that we’ve seen, which makes it a little easier for folks,” she said.

There’s the egg-free vaccine for people who have egg allergies, high-dose vaccine designed for people ages 65 and older, a nasal spray vaccine, and an intradermal vaccine that is injected into the skin instead of into the deltoid muscle in your shoulder.

There is also a new quadrivalent vaccine, which means it protects people from four strains — two influenza B viruses, which is more prevalent in children, and two influenza A viruses.

Last year, about 1,530 people were hospitalized because of the flu in 47 counties throughout the state from October 2012 to May 2013, according the state’s health department statistics.

About 200 people were diagnosed with the flu last year at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, said Dr. Michelle Barron, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Colorado Denver.

Pregnant mothers and people who have asthma and lung disease were hospitalized, but they only spent a couple of days in the hospital, she said.

Barron said she hopes more people will get flu shots this year.

“There were more flu cases in general last year, and immunization rates were down last year,” she said.

Now is the best time to get a flu shot because it takes about two weeks to become effective, she said.

There’s no way to predict what this year’s flu season will be like, though cases become most prevalent in November, December and January, said Lynn Trefren, immunization program nurse manager for the Tri County Health Department, which covers Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.

“Getting your flu shot early in the season really is better because then you’re ready for it when it comes along,” she said. “It’s the best opportunity we have to try and prevent the flu.”

Reach reporter Sara Castellanos at 720-449-9036 or [email protected]