ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A flu strain that spurred the 2009 influenza pandemic is causing widespread illness again this season in New Mexico, state officials said, prompting calls for residents to get vaccinated.
New Mexico Department of Health epidemiologist Chad Smelser said Friday that the H1N1 influenza strain was especially hitting children and younger adults, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://goo.gl/WIvbRu).
Activity and hospitalizations for flu in Albuquerque began rising in late December, Smelser said.
“The long and the short of it is that influenza is increasing throughout the state,” he told the newspaper. “People need to know that and get their shots.”
Albuquerque-area hospitals reported that H1N1 is responsible for a majority of flu hospitalizations.
At University of New Mexico Hospital, officials say nine patients from young children to people in their 60s have been hospitalized for flu since Christmas.
“The point is, it has really taken off,” said Meghan Brett, UNMH’s epidemiologist.
David Stryker, medical director of infection control at Presbyterian Hospital, says 15 people remained hospitalized for flu on Friday.
H1N1 is responsible for most of those cases, which are affecting patients of all ages, he said.
Smelser did not have figures on the number of flu hospitalizations statewide.
Health officials advise people to cover their cough, avoid large crowds, wash their hands frequently and thoroughly, and stay at home if they have a fever, body aches or other flu-like symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control says influenza season can last into May.