Jackson laid low by flu
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: January 11, 2013
One of the worst flu seasons in recent years is sickening adults and children alike in Jackson Hole.
Pharmacies and health clinics around town are running low on vaccines, anti-viral medicines and antibiotics. And doctors’ offices report an uptick in patients with confirmed bouts of the virus.
“There has been widespread flu in Jackson ever since Christmas,” said Dr. Jim Little Jr., medical director of St. John’s Medical Center Family Health and Urgent Care Clinic. Little said the clinic has treated more than 200 cases of the flu in the last two weeks. Many of those were confirmed with the state.
The number of influenza cases in Wyoming has spiked sharply over the last two weeks, making this year’s flu season the worst since the October 2009 swine flu pandemic, according to State Department of Health officials. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has boosted Wyoming’s outbreak status to “widespread.” In mid-December, the flu’s spread through the state was listed as “regional.”
“We’ve been seeing the flu on a pretty steady basis for the better part of the last month,” said Dr. Travis Riddell. He is a physician at Jackson Pediatrics and also Teton County’s public health officer.
“Fortunately we have not had any kids yet that have been so sick they’ve had to be hospitalized,” Riddell said.
That’s not the case in other states.
The CDC’s Dec. 23-29 flu advisory reports that 41 states have widespread influenza. The Associated Press notes that 20 children have died nationwide. Boston’s mayor declared a public health emergency. And in Pennsylvania, one hospital set up a heated outdoor tent to serve as a clinic, sequestering flu patients from others.
For more on the flu’s spread across the country, see a related story on page 12.
Teton County doctors and public health officials are urging people to be extra cautious. Flu symptoms — muscle aches and high fever — can come on rapidly.
Simple, common-sense practices are critical, they said.
“It’s keeping yourself protected by washing your hands and staying home if you’re sick,” said Melanie Pearce, the county’s public health nurse manager. “If you’re vaccinated, you still want to take those steps, because you don’t want to pass the germ on to anyone else.”
If you haven’t received your shot yet, it’s not too late. It takes about two weeks after a vaccination for a person to build up enough antibodies to be protected.
And this year’s formula appears to be very effective.
“We’ve only seen one or two people who got the vaccine and also got the flu,” Little said. “Ideally people should have gotten it a few months ago, but there is still time.”
Shots are still available at clinics around town, like Emerg-A-Care and Family Health and Urgent Care.
Jackson Pediatrics still has doses for children 6 months to 3 years old, but is out of shots for those older than three.
Smith’s Food and Drug had one dose left as of yesterday afternoon. Albertsons has run out of vaccinations, but expects to receive more today. And Stone Drug still has some shots available.