This flu season, vaccine appears to be plentiful

Filed under: Health Care |

The El Paso County Department of Health and Environment, in partnership with the El Paso County Flu Coalition, is encouraging residents of the Pikes Peak region to get flu shots to safeguard against the seasonal illness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 100 million doses of influenza vaccine will be distributed nationwide in preparation for the 2006-07 flu season. Flu shots can be obtained at designated clinics, doctors’ offices, grocery stores and some pharmacies. A comprehensive list of local flu vaccination clinics, locations and dates can be found on the Colorado Influenza and Pneumococcal Alert Coalition Web site, www.immunizecolorado.com.

The traditional flu season in the United States extends from October through May. Each year, more than 200,000 people who get the flu require hospitalization and 36,000 people die from flu-related illnesses. Common flu symptoms include fever, headache, extreme fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, muscle aches and upset stomach.

Complications from the flu range from ear and sinus infections to more acute medical conditions such as pneumonia and heart failure. The flu virus is spread mainly from person to person through the coughs or sneezes of infected individuals or through hand-to-mouth contact with contaminated surfaces. People infected with the flu can be contagious 24 hours before exhibiting symptoms and up to five days after becoming ill.

In El Paso County, reported hospitalized cases of influenza have remained about the same during the past two flu seasons, with 101 cases reported for 2004-05 and 104 reported cases in 2005-06.

“The El Paso County Department of Health and Environment stresses: If you’ve seen one flu season, you’ve seen one flu season; the severity and longevity of any flu season is relatively unpredictable and can’t be measured merely by hospitalized cases,” said Diane Ashton, community health planner for immunizations at the department. “What we do know for certain is that influenza disproportionately affects younger and older populations, in addition to those with chronic medical conditions. The brief discomfort of a flu vaccination is nothing compared to the lasting protection and peace of mind it provides individuals from fall through spring.”

Public Health officials have identified the following high-risk populations as priority groups to receive the flu vaccine:

  • People 50 or older
  • Children ages 6 months to 59 months
  • Adults and children with a chronic disease such as diabetes or chronic disorders of the lung and heart
  • People who are immune compromised because of HIV/AIDS or other diseases affecting the immune system
  • Anyone 6 months to 18 years of age taking long-term aspirin treatments
  • Residents of nursing homes and other extended care facilities
  • All pregnant women
  • Household contacts and caregivers of children less than 6 months old

Study ranks Memorial among nation’s best

Memorial Health System ranks among the top 10 percent of all hospitals nationally for cardiac surgery according to a study released by HealthGrades, the nation’s leading healthcare ratings company.

In addition, Memorial Health System and is a recipient of the specialty excellence award for cardiac surgery.

Memorial Health System also received five-star ratings for clinical excellence in Coronary Bypass Surgery, according to the 2007 HealthGrades’ ratings.

As part of its ninth annual Hospital Quality in America Study, HealthGrades analyzed more than 5,000 hospitals in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, assessing their clinical outcomes and quality.

The 40 million hospitalization records used in the assessment are publicly available and licensed from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The HealthGrades ratings take into account varying degrees of patient severity from hospital to hospital and measure whether patient outcomes for each of more than two dozen procedures and diagnoses are better than expected (five-star), as expected (three-star) or worse than expected (one-star).

The 2007 HealthGrades ratings are available at www.healthgrades.com.

Olympian to speak at Breakfast of Champions

Scott Hamilton will be the keynote speaker at the second annual Breakfast of Champions, organized by Peak Vista Community Health Center.

The event, which is Nov. 15 at the Broadmoor’s International Center, is a fundraiser for working families who have no health insurance and recognizes volunteer physicians associated with Peak Vista.

Reservations can be made by calling 228-6669 by Nov. 3. Individual tickets for the breakfast are $75, and corporate tables of 10 also are available. For more information, call Lynn Pelz at 228-6606.

Peak Vista Community Health Centers annually serves more than 46,000 patients, mostly from working families who do not have health insurance.

Correction

The Go Red for Women event focuses on teaching women about the dangers of heart disease, and ways to prevent it. The event is scheduled for Nov. 3 at the Antlers Hotel. Call Christine Ferguson at 635-7688 for information or reservations.

Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.