SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The flu is beginning to peak in Utah and the state is beginning to see the most cases of influenza than most of the country.
According to the Walgreens Flu Index Utah ranks first in the country for the most incidences of the flu, Mississippi and Hawaii come in at 2nd and 3rd, respectively. In terms of markets, Salt Lake City falls in the Top 10 at 7th behind those like Lafayette, Louisiana and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
WebMD’s interactive map shows Utah with the most instances of the flu for the week.
“We’re peaking right now, we’re pretty much seeing most of our flu cases right now in this holiday period into January and that’s typical for this kind of strain,” says Melanie Spencer, an epidemiologist with the Salt Lake County Health Department.
The Salt Lake County Health Department says they have seen 4 deaths since the flu season began in October and report over 300 hospitalizations — this number continues to grow as more cases are reported.
Spencer says this year it’s the AH3 strain of the flu virus, despite the high numbers, she says it’s been pretty typical for this kind of strain.
“Last year we predominantly saw a H1N1 and that didn’t peak until March which is typical for that strain as well. This season pretty much mirrors our 14/15 season which was also AH3 and it’s following the exact same pattern than it did during that season as well,” she says.
The department is seeing most cases in those 65 years and older as they say the AH3 virus particularly affects those in that age group the most.
“A lot of age groups are suffering from the flu as well but that’s predominantly who we’re seeing getting the flu is the older population,” says Spencer.
The department can’t stress enough the importance of practicing good hygiene to ward off any illnesses. They say you should be washing your hands regularly, covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze, and staying home from work and/or school if you’re sick. They say one reason the flu spreads so quickly during these winter months is because so many people are indoors within close proximity; the perfect atmosphere for these air-borne illnesses to flourish. So they recommend you isolate yourself from others if you are sick. They are cant stress enough the importance of the flu shot, it’s not too late.
“We put out the message get your vaccine, it’s never too late you can still get it right now and it’s your best defense against the flu,” says Spencer.
This year Spencer says the flu shot is very effective in fighting the flu. She adds the CDC reports the flu shot is 60% to 70% effective in preventing the flu than those who do not get the flu shot.