COLORADO SPRINGS — Health officials say the flu is making a comeback after reaching an all-time low last year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest influenza map shows Colorado at minimal flu levels, but neighboring states New Mexico and Kansas with high flu activity.
The CDC reports that flu cases nearly doubled the week before Christmas, and they expect cases to rise.
"All of our kids do have their flu shots," said Fiona Fickert, a Colorado Springs parent.
It was an easy decision for her to make, especially with the rise of other viruses like RSV.
"We've got a lot of other things going around, the usual. Strep throat is going around just like it before COVID hit, and all of the other things," said Fickert.
Fickert says she wasn't surprised to hear that flu season was back in full swing.
"Now that the vaccines are out for COVID, now that masking isn't required, a lot of good habits have fallen to the side," said Fickert.
Data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows 133 flu hospitalizations statewide with 8 in El Paso County and 1 in Pueblo County.
"Right now, we are seeing some flu cases. however, what we are really seeing is such a huge predominance of COVID-19 as opposed to flu. Anecdotal, we have seen about 400 patients and we're seeing one to two flu cases compared to fifteen to twenty COVID-19 cases so it is there. Unfortunately, we've seen some cases with kiddos where they've gotten the flu as well as something additional like strep at the same time," said Dr. Ian Tullberg, medical director for UCHealth Urgent Care clinics.
UCHealth has seen hundreds of flu-positive tests in its labs across the state. Doctors say it's something that the community needs to be aware of as COVID-19 continues to spread.
"Usually a few sniffles and runny nose, not so much of a fever with a cold. When you start looking at the flu or COVID, that's when the headaches and bodyaches come. Most people say they feel like they got run over by a truck. If you have that feeling, you most likely don't have a cold, you mostly have the flu or COVID-19. The big thing that folks continue to get stuck in their mind is that loss of taste and smell, that happens but some folks who test positive don't have those kinds of things. There are some of those key characteristics in there that aren't showing up in everybody," said Tullberg.
With some planning to gather to celebrate the New Year, Tullberg recommends the community be cautious and get vaccinated for COVID-19 and the flu.
"We just need to continue what we know works. We know the vaccine works, not 100 percent, but very well. Masking can help stop the spread of some diseases, social distancing, and make sure you're not going into crowds. What I'm doing this New Year's Eve, I am probably staying home and watching the Great British Cooking Show. That's what my wife and I are doing. We aren't going out, we aren't celebrating with folks, and it's just going to be a nice lowkey evening," said Tullberg.
He says it's nearly impossible to predict what this flu season will bring.
"Usually, we can take a look at Australia for example. They go through our flu season right before we go through ours and we can kinda look at it and say hey it's not that bad this year and usually that's a really good predictor. Well, the problem is, their restrictions in Australia are nowhere near where we are. A few weeks ago, they just came off of restrictions from the last eighteen months so we can't really look at them, at least this year, and say OK this is how their flu season is, this is how it's going to be here," said Tullberg.
For more information about flu prevention and care, and how to schedule an appointment, visit this website.