SALT LAKE CITY – Influenza season is upon us in Utah, and state health officials are urging residents to get a flu shot to help to protect themselves against a potentially deadly disease. Salt Lake County Health Department officials reported two flu-related deaths, both adults, in late December. The H1N1 strain of the virus also was blamed for several recent deaths in Texas.
Epidemiologist Theron Jeppson, Utah Department of Health, said more than 150 people have been hospitalized for influenza-related illness in the state since the flu season started in September. He said getting a flu shot can help prevent what could be several days of physical misery, or worse, as flu season intensifies.
“We’re still at a level that would be considered low to moderate statewide, but it has increased pretty much every week since the middle of November,” Jeppson said.
Health officials said the flu season tends to peak in January each year. The main flu virus is H1N1, Jeppson said, which caused many deaths during the influenza pandemic of 2009. The most common flu symptoms can include a fever, body ache, nausea and vomiting.
In addition to getting a vaccination, people should help themselves and others by frequent hand-washing and avoiding people when sick, Jeppson advised. The very young, seniors and people with health challenges are the most vulnerable to influenza, he added.
“There are certain people who have underlying medical conditions, like maybe asthma or diabetes or chronic lung disease. Pregnant women are at higher risk for severe illness,” he explained.
Flu shots are generally available at neighborhood pharmacies. The vaccine requires about two weeks to take effect. Anyone suffering with the flu should get plenty of bed rest and drink lots of water, Jeppson advised.