Clinics see rush of patients after flu deaths reach epidemic levels

DENVER — Flu deaths reached epidemic levels across the country on Friday, and clinics across the state have seen a rush of concerned and conscientious visitors anxious to avoid becoming sick.

As some shoppers bought groceries at the King Soopers in Stapleton, others tried to buy immunity from the flu.

“I have a history of asthma, and it can be a complication if you get the flu and you have asthma, so I’m concerned,” shopper Dana Svendsan said.

She and many others crowded into the King Soopers Little Clinic to get their flu shots this weekend.

“We have seen a significant increase in patients coming in for flu vaccine and in for flu symptoms,” Little Clinic Nurse Practitioner David Kleberger said.  

The Centers for Disease Control said Colorado is one of 24 states showing high flu activity. Luckily, that number is down from 29 states that had increased activity last week.

The CDC is hopeful the disease may have peaked in some regions.

The flu has killed two children in Colorado, and has sent 506 people to the hospital. Last year, the flu hospitalized 543 Coloradans throughout the entire flu season, which typically lasts through March.

“The problem with the flu is that it’s so easy to spread. It’s spread by talking, droplet movement in the air, coughing, and sneezing,” Kleberger said.

Kayla Burnim knows the flu all too well.

“I’m pretty good at getting it. I get it the last week of February and generally sometime in September, almost like clockwork,” she said.

She hopes a flu shot will stop that clock, even though the CDC says this year’s vaccine is 62 percent effective.

Burnim’s mother who is visiting from Boston, where the flu has caused a public health emergency, made her get one.

“It doesn’t hurt you because it’s a dead vaccine. It won’t cause you to get sick. Worst case, you get sick anyways. Best case, you don’t get sick,” she said.

Doctors say a flu shot is still one of the best protections against the illness. A conscientious relative can be a close second.

“My sister in Pennsylvania threw a fit because I hadn’t gotten one yet,” said Cynthia Plavik, who got the vaccine with her husband.

Besides a flu shot, your best bets to avoid getting sick are: washing your hands throughout the day, covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough and keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.