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NM Reports Spike in Flu Cases, Deaths

Brush up on hand-washing hygiene. The flu season isn't even half over, but New Mexico is reporting more influenza cases and deaths than last year. (new.mit.edu)
Brush up on hand-washing hygiene. The flu season isn't even half over, but New Mexico is reporting more influenza cases and deaths than last year. (new.mit.edu)
January 8, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The flu season is weeks away from its annual peak and already cases of reported influenza in New Mexico are double what they were at this time last year.

The state has reported six flu-related deaths this season and 12 outbreaks – meaning high numbers of cases in a particular facility, such as a school or nursing home.

Seven of those outbreaks have happened in the last few weeks.

David Morgan, a public information officer for the New Mexico Department of Health, says this is the first time in five years that flu cases have spiked so soon after the start of winter.

"What that means is, people are going to doctors, they're going to emergency rooms with flu-like symptoms, and we are seeing it at a much higher rate now than we were at this time last year," he states.

Doctors still say the best way to avoid getting the flu is to avoid others who are sick, cover your coughs and wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say New Mexico is among 21 states with higher-than-normal numbers of flu-related doctor visits this winter.

The timing and duration of a flu season varies, but Morgan says cold weather in October typically brings an increase in influenza activity.

This year, New Mexico didn't see any cold weather until late November, so he doesn't expect flu activity to peak for at least another month.

However, he adds a flu season can last well into spring.

"It really just varies widely from season to season how long flu season lasts, but we could be having months more of this," he states.

If you do get the flu, doctors recommend staying home from school or work to potentially shorten the length of time you're sick and avoid spreading the disease.

Vaccines for this season's influenza strain have proven to be only 10 to 25 percent effective.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM