Colorado set a record this week for the number of patients admitted to the hospital with flu in a season.
Since October, 3,550 people have been admitted to the hospital with the flu, according to data compiled by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
In La Plata County, two people have been admitted to the hospital, and in Montezuma County, 19 people have been hospitalized.
“This year is certainly unique,” said Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist with CDPHE.
The state started collecting comparable flu data in the 2004-05 season, and the latest numbers for hospitalizations break a record set in the 2014-15 flu season.
Many people across the state are coming down with a strain of Influenza A, known as H3N2, that tends to send more older adults to the hospital, Herlihy said.
The flu season across the state peaked in December, but the state is seeing the same number of cases now that it would see during the peak season of past years, she said.
“There is still quite a bit of risk; there is ongoing transmission,” she said.
The state has also noticed a growing second wave, Influenza B, which is not uncommon, she said.
Those who have had Influenza A can still get Influenza B because they are different viruses.
In La Plata and Archuleta counties, San Juan Basin Public Health has also noticed an increase in both types of viruses this season compared with previous years, agency spokeswoman Claire Ninde said.
“It appears that the season has peaked, but La Plata and Archuleta counties have only been seeing a slight drop in positive flu test results,” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that the flu vaccine is 36 percent effective against Influenza A and B.
The vaccine was less effective against H3N2, the strain circulating, and that’s not unusual, she said.
Historically, data shows that the vaccine is typically only 30 percent effective at preventing this year’s widespread strain of the flu, she said.
The percentages reflect how well a vaccine prevents illness, but that’s not the only benefit. Vaccines can reduce the severity of illness.
“That’s particularly important for older adults because an influenza vaccine can mean the difference between a short, mild illness at home or a severe illness that results in hospitalization,” she said.
It’s not clear yet if the effectiveness of the vaccine was a factor in the high number of hospitalizations, she said.
The flu season doesn’t end until May, so there is still time to get a vaccination. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to take effect, according to the CDC.
San Juan Basin Public Health has vaccinations available. Flu vaccines are also available for free through a primary care doctors, Ninde said.