Healthcare professionals give advice for beating winter bugs

Flu shot clinic coming up
Local physicians can all agree that cold weather can lead to increased respiratory problems, but local officials will once again host a drive-through immunization clinic in an effort to prevent a wide-spread influenza outbreak in the Gunnison area.

Luckily, cases of local viral infections are currently infrequent, according to Elk Avenue Medical Clinic physician’s assistant Colleen O’Sullivan. “There’s a low level of upper respiratory things going on,” O’Sullivan says of things like chest colds, coughs and sore throats. “It’s more often a viral thing that lasts four to seven days,” she adds.
Gunnison County immunizations and children's health specialist Carol Worrall says respiratory problems lately haven’t been severe, but with winter setting in it becomes more important to watch out for the flu bug. “The main thing we think of is influenza. It is the cause of 30,000 to 35,000 deaths a year in an average winter,” Worrall says.
Worrall says the flu is more common in the winter because of the day-to-day living environment. “You talk about germs or illness with the seasons and most for the winter are going to be respiratory. People are going to be inside more and sharing more germs. If someone coughs outside it’s not as bad,” Worrall says of the winter.
She says summer usually means more food-borne illnesses with the heat and more animal related issues like the West Nile Virus or rabies. For winter health preparation Worrall says, “The best thing to do is get the flu shot.”
For the second year, Gunnison County will host a mass immunization clinic on November 17. The clinic will be held at the City of Gunnison’s maintenance facility at 1160 West Virginia Avenue between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.  Participants will be able to receive a flu vaccine shot without leaving their vehicle and there will be a mist vaccine that can be inhaled as a treatment option for children.  The cost is $20 for adults and $10 for children.
Gunnison County Health and Human Services director Renee Brown says the clinic is also an opportunity for the county “to utilize some emergency preparedness strategies.” For instance, the county will employ the practice of social distancing, where citizens can receive a treatment without mingling in the same location. “It’ll actually be a drive-through vaccination process,” Brown says. She adds that a temporary command structure for program administrators also helps keep possible illness out of public buildings, another step to minimize interaction in the event of a more serious outbreak.
The new steps the county is taking for emergency preparedness began over the last two years under the threat of an avian influenza, or bird flu, outbreak. Avian influenza is a strain of the flu virus that mainly affects birds, but since 2003 has lead to the death of more than 200 people, according to the World Health Organization. Scientists believe that once the avian flu virus mutates into a form that can easily affect humans it could cause a widespread pandemic. Brown says avian flu is “definitely something the county is very much involved with in terms of monitoring and community wide preparedness.”
Aside from getting the flu shot, O’Sullivan says, the same old prevention strategies are the best way to stay healthy this winter. “Wash your hands all the time,” O’Sullivan says, especially after using frequently handled items like a pen at the grocery store or bank. “That’s a huge vector for stuff to get transferred around,” O’Sullivan says of a ballpoint pen.
O’Sullivan also says to “listen to your body. If you’re planning a big epic ride but you’re exhausted you just leave yourself open to illnesses.” She says the body’s immune system is tied to energy levels.
“Some days you have to take the day off,” O’Sullivan says.

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