Influenza cases in Wyoming have experienced a “significant jump” in recent weeks, according to the state Health Department. Federal officials say the dominant strain of the disease is more likely to affect younger people.
Campbell County Public Health Director Jane Glaser said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering Campbell County, as well as all of Wyoming, as having widespread flu cases.
The numbers started increasing in the beginning of December and have gone up ever since. Glaser said she and her staff have seen “a number of people coming into the Public Health office with flu symptoms,” and they’re being referred to their physicians.
For the first week of 2020, most of the reported flu cases around the state involved the strain of influenza B. But health care providers reported increasing levels of activity associated with influenza A.
In response to the increased flu activity, Campbell County Health has begun restricting visitations to its maternal child unit and Legacy Living and Rehabilitation Center.
Campbell County Memorial Hospital’s maternal child unit will restrict visitors to a mother’s spouse or significant other and only two additional visitors at a time. Visiting the labor delivery unit is always limited to three.
Children younger than age 12 aren’t permitted to visit. A newborn’s siblings younger than 12 may visit if they are screened for symptoms of illness by maternal child nurses.
Campbell County Health is asking those who feel ill not to visit.
“Please do not come if you have a fever, cough, runny nose, muscle aches or fatigue,” a spokeswoman said.
At the Legacy, the CCH long-term care center, all visitors are being asked to use hand sanitizer before seeing residents. Masks and hand sanitizers are located near the main entrance.
No children ages 12 or younger can visit, except family members of residents. Those children under 12 also are required to wear a mask.
The CDC rated Wyoming’s flu activity as moderate, while a majority of the country is rated at the highest severity level.
Kim Deti, a Health Department spokeswoman, said the agency “would refrain from predicting whether we are near the peak yet or from making an overall prediction on the season.” She added that Wyoming’s dominant iteration of the flu is a B strain, “which is unusual for this stage in the season.”
The agency added that nationally, hospitalizations and percent of deaths remain low. They attribute the mix of deaths with overall low hospitalizations to the dominance of the B strain, which is “more likely to affect children and younger adults than the elderly.”
“If people have not gotten their flu vaccine, they definitely should, because that’s the best way (to prevent it),” Glaser said.
Glaser said it’s “never too late” to get the flu shot. The typical flu season runs from the end of October through April, but depending on the year, “we see cases all the way through summer.”
Those who are more susceptible to the flu, such as young children and the elderly, should stay away from large groups of people, Glaser said. There have been reported flu cases in day-care centers, she added.
To date, 32 children have died nationally from flu-related conditions and 4,800 people have died in total in the first three months of the 2019-20 flu season. The state Department of Health typically does not release figures mid-season, though exceptions — like pediatric deaths or particularly severe seasons — sometimes prompt officials to send additional warnings.