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David Morgan
575-528-5197 Office
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Flu Season's First Casualty

January 15, 2014 - Influenza Surveillance - Alert

In public health, there’s no satisfaction in saying, “Told you so.”

The last time I talked about flu in this weekly column, I talked about how December is usually the month when you, I and everyone get busy preparing for the holidays and get forgetful about our health. Historically, in New Mexico and nationwide, that leads to January almost always being the peak for flu season.

And guess what? It is.

The New Mexico Department of Health has 29 providers statewide that help us track flu cases - specifically influenza-like illnesses (that’s fever with cough or sore throat). Those cases rose to their highest level of the season last week. The state average went from 6.2 to 7 percent in a matter of days.

That’s a problem, particularly here in the southwestern part of the state, where we already have more people going to see their doctor for flu like symptoms than anywhere else in the state. The Southwest Region includes Las Cruces, Silver City, Lordsburg, Deming, Alamogordo, Truth or Consequences, Socorro and places in between.

The southwest part of the state saw a dramatic increase in the percentage of people showing up at doctor’s offices and urgent care centers with flu-like symptoms. The percentage of patients showing up with flu-like symptoms at the end of December was 0.6%. By early January it was 5.1%.

Flu season starts in October and can last as late as May, and we talk about it monthly here in this newspaper column because the whole flu thing is largely preventable if you get a flu shot.

The flu vaccine doesn’t guarantee you won’t get sick, but it makes a huge difference if you do, impacting how sick and for how long.

Flu is nothing to mess with. It’s a highly transmittable disease which comes with fever, muscle pain, headaches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, sore throats, runny noses, stuffy noses and more. It targets the very young, the very old and anyone with a weakened immune system.

In extreme cases, it can kill, as it did last month. It’s victim, a 76-year old woman from Santa Fe County.

It can often lead to hospitalization. In fact, the people getting hospitalized with the flu this season tend not to be the target groups of five and under or 65 or older, but the in-between of 18-65 years of age. That’s a sure sign too many New Mexicans who need to get the flu shot, aren’t doing it.

Remember, flu shots are available at your local pharmacy or doctor’s office. It’s often covered by your insurance, and even then it’s between $30-40 if uninsured. Your local public health office also provides flu vaccinations at no cost for low income or uninsured residents.

Last week, I was laid low for days with a bad cold, and that was bad enough. I credit avoiding the flu to my getting my shot in October, but if you haven’t, it’s not too late. To find out about Shot Clinics in your part of the state, call the Immunization Hotline, toll free, at 1-800-232-4636.

Beat the flu before it finds you. Get immunized.

The Department offers vaccinations for people without insurance or who are otherwise not able to get immunized. Those with Medicaid or other insurance who come to Public Health Offices are asked to present their insurance card.

For more information about influenza, visit the Influenza Surveillance Program section of our website. You can also learn more about vaccinations from the Immunization Program section of our website.

Media Contact

We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact David Morgan at 575-528-5197 (Office) or 575-649-0754 (Mobile) with your questions.