By Darrell Todd Maurina
Although flu is striking all around New Mexico, it seems to have had less effect on the local area. Not a single flu case has been reported so far in Curry, Roosevelt, or Quay counties, authorities say.
Beth Velasquez, spokeswoman for the New Mexico Department of Health, said there have been 108 reported flu cases statewide in 16 counties so far, but cautioned that she couldn’t rule out some unreported flu in the area.
“There have been no flu cases confirmed in your counties,” Velasquez said. “That doesn’t mean you don’t have any cases, because there are cases all around you (in other counties). A lot of times with the flu, people just curl up in bed and don’t go to the doctor, and also it does take time to confirm that a case is the flu.”
Local hospitals and health departments say they have been very successful in their programs to immunize residents against the flu — so effective that some vaccine supplies are running low.
James D’Agostino, administrator of Roosevelt General Hospital, said his staff tries to work with local businesses to get their employees vaccinated.
“What we did last year and what we have tried to do this year is get groups of businesses to get groups of employees together,” D’Agostino said. “It is easy for us to go out to a business and give the vaccine to 20, 30, or 40 people.”
Mary Russell, director of patient care, said those working in companies that don’t offer flu shots can come to Roosevelt General Hospital for vaccinations.
“The Centers for Disease Control are recommending that everybody be vaccinated this year,” Russell said. “We are offering it at $20 and we will bill Medicare if they have Medicare.”
Butch Abernathy, the pharmacist at Plains Regional Medical Center, said the hospital’s clinic has offered 200 to 300 doses so far this year. Abernathy encouraged people to get vaccinated — even though the flu vaccine being offered isn’t designed specifically to protect against one common strain of the flu, he said the vaccine will provide some immunity.
“I think the problem this year is Australia and New Zealand had the early attacks. They had a pretty tough time of it,” Abernathy said. “Our flu vaccine does not have that strain yet, and I have not seen any of them reported here in Clovis this year.”
Gayla Jaquess, nurse manager at the Curry County Health Department, said free flu shots will be available on Dec. 2 for high-risk patients, defined as those over 65, or who have any chronic health condition such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, any lung disease, heart disease, or arthritis. Hours for free shots will be 8 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m.
“Flu is a very serious condition in the winter time,” Jaquess said. “(The vaccine) boosts your immunity to protect against all strains of flu. It does protect against three specific strains.”
The Roosevelt County Health Department doesn’t have a set day for vaccinations, but has only 40 doses left for adults, five for children aged 6 months to 3 years, and five for children 3 to 18.
Nurse Manager Carol Morgan urged people to come in if they have diseases that could make flu worse.
“I want to see anybody with a disease condition, especially of the lungs such as asthma or emphysema, diabetes, people with cancer, anything that would make them a higher risk factor,” Morgan said. “(Flu) is a disease that can be very hard on people as far as it increases the likelihood that (they) will be hospitalized. These are particularly virulent diseases that can lead to emphysema and pneumonia.”