After one adult flu death in Montrose County — and at least 75 reported cases of influenza B here — the coroner is not mincing words.
“Go out and get vaccinated. It’s not too late,” Dr. Thomas Canfield said Friday, when Montrose County announced a spike in flu cases, as well as the death.
Canfield said privacy laws restrict him from identifying the person who died, or that person’s age and sex. He was able to confirm the fatality was an adult who had not received a vaccine.
He stressed he was not saying the individual would not have died, had he or she been vaccinated, but that being unvaccinated increases risk of death from the flu, particularly among senior citizens and young children.
“The vaccine may not prevent it, but it modifies the disease. It’s very, very important,” Canfield said.
International news has been focused on the coronavirus that has killed more than 100 people in China, prompting a mass quarantine in that country, as well as restrictions on visitors to the United States and some evacuations of American citizens from China.
“This is not the coronavirus,” Canfield said. “This is the flu that we’ve got a vaccine for. We’re in the middle of an epidemic, but it’s not too late to get vaccinated.”
Canfield said death from coronavirus is unlikely in the United States, but: “You might die from influenza or complications of influenza.”
Flu vaccines are available at Montrose County Public Health, 1845 S. Townsend Ave., and through local health care providers, as well as certain pharmacies.
“I strongly encourage the public to protect themselves and get a flu shot — it’s not too late to get vaccinated,” Montrose County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Lisa Gallegos said, in a county news release. “There is a marked increase in influenza B cases, which typically affects children and young people.”
Canfield said although no vaccine is failsafe, the flu vaccine is for most people 70 to 90 percent effective and, if a vaccinated person does get the virus, symptoms tend to be milder and not last as long.
“The point is, if you are vaccinated and get the flu, you don’t have as severe of a clinical course and the chance of death is significantly reduced,” he said.
“The people we worry about are children and seniors. They’re the ones that die.”
Flu symptoms include fever or feeling feverish with chills, although not everyone with flu experiences fever; cough; sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; muscle or body aches; headaches; fatigue and, for some, vomiting and diarrhea (more common among children than among adults).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concurs with Canfield and the county: It’s not too late to be vaccinated. Although there are many different flu viruses, the vaccine protects people from the viruses that research suggests will be the most common.
“There are some people who say the vaccine gives them the flu. That is absolutely untrue,” Canfield said.
“It’s not a live virus. It can’t give you the disease. But it sure can prevent it.”
Avoid the flu
• Get a flu shot.
• Avoid contact with sick people.
• If sick, limit contact with others; if sick with flu symptoms, stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except for medical appointments and other necessities.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; discard the tissue.
• Wash hands often with soap and water. Use a sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
• Take flu antiviral drugs if prescribed.
— Centers for Disease Control and Prevention