Flu activity still minimal in Wyoming; estimated 400K hospitalizations, 22K deaths in U.S. last season - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Flu activity still minimal in Wyoming; estimated 400K hospitalizations, 22K deaths in U.S. last season

“I took a few minutes to get my flu shot this morning,” Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon said on Oct. 8. (Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, Facebook)

CASPER, Wyo. — Influenza activity remains minimal in Wyoming and across most of the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC report that clinical laboratories across the country completed 35,688 influenza tests between Sept. 27 and Oct. 17 with 121 tests coming back positive.

63 of the positive cases were influenza A and 58 were influenza B.

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Flu activity remains minimal in the majority of states with Iowa seeing the “highest” rate of flu activity. Iowa’s flu activity, however, is still considered “low,” according to the CDC.

While flu season is not yet underway, both the CDC as well as health officials in Wyoming recommend that people get vaccinated for the flu.

Influenza activity for the 2019-2020 season “began to increase in November and was consistently high through January and February,” the CDC says.

The CDC estimates that the 2019-2020 flu season in the United States resulted in:

  • 38 million flu illnesses
  • 18 million flu-associated medical visits
  • 400,000 flu hospitalizations
  • 22,000 flu-associated deaths

The CDC also estimates that the flu vaccine in 2019-2020 prevented:

  • 7.5 million flu illnesses
  • 3.7 million flu medical visits
  • 105,000 flu hospitalizations
  • 6,300 flu deaths

“These estimates are based on vaccine effectiveness estimates from 2019-2020, as well as data on vaccine coverage during [the] last flu season,” the CDC says.

Natrona County Health Officer Dr. Mark Dowell said on Oct. 14 that influenza tends to impact Wyoming “anywhere from late December to April.”

While influenza season hasn’t yet begun in the area, health officials are urging people to get immunized this year to help ensure hospital resources aren’t exhausted by a combination of COVID-19 and influenza patients.

“If there was ever a year to immunize your family, it’s now,” Dowell said.

Natrona County Health Officer Dr. Ghazi Ghanem added: “You can have 20 patients in the hospital with COVID, but what that means is you are going to have a lot of people who are going to stay in the hospital with this disease for quite some time taking away beds that usually are used for other illnesses.”

Dowell explained that October is influenza immunization month in Natrona County. He said another reason people should get immunized is because if the area sees a lot of influenza cases, its going to exacerbate to task of identifying which respiratory illness someone is experiencing.

“It’s going to be a nightmare trying to figure out what is influenza, what is COVID, what is both [and] what is neither,” Dowell said. “How do you get access to the all the testing you need to sort it out? Who do you test? It’s going to fall on the respiratory clinic.”

Dowell was referring to the WMC’s Respiratory Symptom Screening Clinic, located at 245 S. Fenway Street. The clinic has re-opened for the fall.

“The respiratory symptom screening program evaluates and treats respiratory symptoms while limiting local transmission of infectious illnesses such as influenza, RSV, COVID-19, strep throat and others,” the WMC says.

Dowell says that anyone over the age of six months should get an influenza vaccine this year.

“We’re going to call on his state to immunize the heck out of everybody against influenza, anybody older than six months of age,” he said. “We have to.”

“That way, we’ll have a better chance to sort out what is covered and what isn’t. It’s so important. There are a lot of reasons to do this.”

The Casper-Natrona County Health Department also offers immunizations for both children and adults.

“Please call 307-577-9757 to make an appointment for immunizations,” the CNCHD says.

The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:

What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.

If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.

Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.

For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email: covid@cnchd.org

  • Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.