Influenza Hospitalizations Down in Mesa County

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Influenza cases in Mesa County for the 2019-2020 flu season are much lower than last season’s numbers.

According to health officials with St. Mary’s Medical Center and Mesa County Public Health, Mesa County has not seen a flu hospitalization since the last week of March, almost two months ago.

“We typically do tail off once spring starts to turn into summer but not seeing any in April is rather unusual for Mesa County,” said Andy Tyler, an Epidemiologist with the Mesa County Health Department.

“Flu, just like coronavirus, is a respiratory viral illness and so the social distancing practices that we have been doing have certainly impacted flu circulation as well here in Mesa County,” said Tyler.

According to Erin Minnerath, the Infection Prevention Manager at St. Mary’s Medical Center, the Coronavirus may have had an impact.

“I think this year was different because we had a novel respiratory pathogen that was circulating throughout the world,” said Minnerath.

Minnerath says flu season varies each year.

“Seasons can be more prolonged, they can also be more severe, more mild,” said Minnerath.

While social distancing is a relatively new term, its not a foreign concept.

“The concept of trying to, especially when you’re sick, stay away from other people and really try to not spread those germs has been around for a long time,” said Tyler.

“Hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, wearing a mask if you’re sick, staying home and you’re sick, those are all very important strategies to preventing the spread of influenza in our community,” said Minnerath.

At a media conference Monday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis said the same is true for the state.

“Flu is mostly gone from our state, it’s a very low number, because of the social distancing there’s not as much flu,” said Governor Polis.

According to the health department, Mesa County also saw a decrease in doctor visits for flu symptoms.

“It’s hard to know if that’s because people weren’t as sick with that, or the overall decrease in people seeking medical care that we have seen throughout our healthcare system,” said Tyler.

Regardless, practicing the annual recommendations to wash your hands and stay home if you’re sick seems to be working.

“It not only impacted coronavirus circulating in the this community, but it definitely had impacts on flu, as well as likely other respiratory illnesses,” said Tyler.

Minnerath says the proof is in the science.

“People like myself, infection preventionists, what we preach, it makes sense and it does work,” said Minnerath.

Minnerath says that hopefully because of our experience this year, everyone will understand the importance of playing their part in keeping the community healthy.

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