Flu season hospitalizes thousands, 2 deaths reported at Penrose

Published: Jan. 24, 2020 at 7:15 AM MST
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Flu season is in full swing in Colorado, and it’s already been deadly.

According to the

, more than 1,000 people have been hospitalized in Colorado since flu season started on Sept. 29. The state health department only tracks pediatric deaths and reports that one child has died.

In Colorado Springs, there have been two flu-related deaths at Penrose Hospital, according to Penrose-St. Francis Health Services. A spokesperson was not able to provide additional details about the patients’ ages or whether they had been vaccinated.

An elderly person also died from flu-related symptoms at a

on Jan. 3.

“We are definitely at the peak of the season, and you know, this year, influenza began earlier than usual,” said Dr. Flor Munoz, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine.

According to data from

, 144 adults and children have been hospitalized with the flu, as of Jan. 18. There were 138 hospitalizations reported at the


“We do have expectation that the flu season will continue into the spring this year,” Munoz said. “So it will be a long season, and that’s where you see a lot of illnesses being reported, and we do have several strains of flu circulating, as we see often.”

One way this flu season differs from previous years is what strains are most prominent. According to Munoz, Influenza B is showing up a lot more this year than last.

“Influenza A and B can be indistinguishable when you have the symptoms, but in some cases, Influenza B, for children in particular, it tends to be more severe in the sense that it can cause some complications,” Munoz said. “In addition to having the usual ... fever, aches and cough, you can have pneumonia. You can have inflammation of different organs, such as the heart and the muscles.”

Data from El Paso County Public Health confirms that Influenza B has caused most of the hospitalizations, which was not the case last year.

“As of January 4, 2020, 108 people in El Paso County have been hospitalized for influenza, 69% caused by influenza B," the health department's

stated. "During the 2018-2019 influenza season, the influenza B virus was responsible for 6.2% of hospitalizations and 23% during the 2017-2018 season."

Even though flu season has already started, experts still recommend getting your flu shot if you haven’t yet.

“We prefer that you get your flu vaccine by the end of October ... It’s important to get it as early as possible,” Munoz said. “Even if you’ve had the flu, go ahead and get your vaccine because you have actually several strains circulating, and you can get the flu more than once in a season.”

In some cases, the flu can have severe complications. Tash Haynes was hospitalized for 16 days in 2017 after getting the flu.

“I’m winning now,” she said. “I’m doing really, really well, but it was a very scary time.”

Haynes said she didn’t have insurance, so she avoided going to the doctor.

“By the time that I did know something was wrong, it was too late because I’d already gotten pneumonia, and the two of them together kind of teamed up and the flu ended up in my heart,” she said.

Haynes spent six days in critical care before eventually getting better. She encourages everyone to take the flu seriously.

“Flu doesn’t have a person that it attacks,” Haynes said. “All of us are capable of getting the flu, and it’s really the people that are educated around the symptoms and know what to expect that are going to be the first responders and that are going to have a better chance of surviving it.”