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50-year-old Pueblo man dies from flu complications, health department pushing vaccine

Posted at 10:17 PM, Jan 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-05 00:23:14-05

PUEBLO – According to the obituary for Frank Riggio, he was just 50 years old when he passed away from complications of the flu just before the new year.

It’s a tragedy that has shocked the Pueblo community as many people think the flu only hits kids and the elderly hard. As this case shows though, the flu can impact anyone at any age.

Milissa Cruz said, “It’s sad.”

Nathan Herrera said, “It’s scary especially when you have kids.”

For Pueblo residents like Herrera and Cruz it’s a hard thing to swallow knowing a fellow community member is now gone after complications from the flu.

Cruz said, “It’s just crazy to think that somebody passed away from it already.”

Herrera said, “You never know what could happen.”

At the Pueblo Department of Public Health & Environment, Zak Van Ooyen is the clinic program manager.

He said, “Unfortunately when it comes to the flu we can see complications across all age ranges. That’s why it’s so important for individuals to get vaccinated with the flu vaccine as soon as possible.”

Which is exactly what Cruz does.

“I vaccinate my daughter every year. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Even though we’re about halfway through flu season, Van Ooyen said the vaccine is available until June.

“The next best thing aside from the vaccine is to wash your hands. If soap and water are unavailable we recommend the use of hand sanitizer.”

Also, cover your cough and stay home if you’re sick. Van Ooyen said people need to stay home for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication. Once that fever is gone without medication it’s safe to return.

“I hope that individuals take this as I need to go get vaccinated.”

The department of public health said as of December 29 there were 25 flu cases in Pueblo County and 596 in Colorado. Last year’s total in the county was 264 and this time last year in Colorado there were over 1,400 cases.

If you still need a flu shot Van Ooyen recommends contacting your medical provider or go to a local pharmacy. If it’s not available at either of those places give the health department a call at (719) 583-4300.