ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – The flu is spreading across New Mexico, fast. The Department of Health says the numbers are already double what they were this time last year and the state hasn’t even reached the peak month for flu season.
The Department of Health says it’s the worst New Mexico has seen in at least five years. Since the official beginning of flu season in October, doctors have been busy.
“Since the first of the year, I think there’s probably 20 patients a day that come in with flu symptoms,” said Tom Wulf, ER director at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center.
The Department of Health can’t say how many people have actually had the flu, because not everyone is tested. However, it’s investigated at least 12 flu outbreaks at facilities, seven of them in the last few weeks.
“Influenza rates are pretty high for this early in the season. We usually don’t get this high, this early in the season,” said Dr. Michael Landen, DOH State Epidemiologist.
The Department of Health says compared to this time last year, twice as many people have reported flu like symptoms, about 5 percent. That’s leading health officials to believe this is a more dangerous strain.
“This year looks like more of a severe influenza season largely because the influenza that is predominating tends to cause more hospitalization,” Dr. Landen explained.
One local hospital says it’s definitely seeing the trend. The Department of Health says most of the outbreaks have been in the northern part of the state but the flu is everywhere, and people are noticing.
“Truthfully, several years ago I ignored it, but then there were several people that I knew that caught it very badly and it was quite serious,” said Hudson Boué of Roswell.
“I haven’t gotten the flu shot yet but I’ve been out knocking on doors and stuff and everyone’s been telling me that they’re super sick and to go away so I’m really hoping I don’t get it,” said Elder Barney of Roswell.
Doctors say it’s not too late to get the flu shot, and they recommend those high risk groups such as pregnant woman and people 65 and older to get the shot as soon as possible. The number of flu related deaths in the state for this season sits at six.