Utah flu activity high; risk information and prevention tips

Weekly U.S. Map: Influenza Summary Update for week ending Dec. 15, 2012 | Image by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

UTAH – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half the country is being widely affected by influenza this flu season, including Utah.

The risk

A report released Dec. 15 by the Utah Department of Health, classified the state as having a high level of influenza-like illness activity, with spikes in the Salt Lake and Southwest health districts. 53 people have been hospitalized with flu symptoms since the recognized start of the season in October, nine of which were in Washington and Iron counties.

“We’re expecting to see most of the activity in February,” said David Heaton of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department. “It’s important to get a flu shot now.”

Everyone can and will likely catch the flu within their lifetime, but some are more susceptible, including children younger than 5, adults over 65 and pregnant women. People suffering from asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV or AIDS, cancer, obesity, chronic lung disease, heart disease, blood disorders, kidney disorders, liver disorders, metabolic disorders, neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions and those on a long-term aspirin regimen are also at higher risk.

Flu complications, such as pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus infections can often be more deadly than the illness itself. Flu can also impact existing health conditions, so even the most mild symptoms should be addressed before they worsen.

Prevention and treatment

Flynn said that the best flu preventative is to get vaccinated. Though flu season has already begun, vaccines are still available from the Southwest Utah Public Health Department for $18 or no cost with some insurance carriers. An appointment is required and to save time, the flu consent form is available to download and print online.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer three simple tips to take action against the flu.

  • Get vaccinated

A yearly flu vaccine is recommended as the first and most important step in protecting against viruses. Everyone over six months of age, especially those at high risk, should get one. Vaccination is also extremely important for health care workers.

  • Take everyday preventative actions to stop the spread of germs

Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands often; use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. Avoid close contact with sick individuals. If you have flu-like symptoms, it is recommended to stay home and limit contact with others for at least 24 hours after your fever has passed.

  • Take antiviral drugs

Despite a popular misconception that they are like antibiotics, antiviral drugs are prescription medicines that can only be made available by a doctor. They can make flu symptoms milder and may also prevent serious flu complications. Studies show that antiviral drugs work best when treatment is started within two days of getting sick.

Even with the best preventative measures, flu could still affect you. If you experience such common symptoms as fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuff nose, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue, see a medical professional as soon as possible.

Opposition to Flu Vaccine

There is opposition to both: the flu vaccine itself and the incidence of mandatory vaccination within certain professions. The vaccine debate is strenuous and complex. One of myriad website links discussing the objections is given here; while noted, analysis of the opposition is beyond the scope of this report. The choice is yours.

Further reading

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Seasonal Influenza (Flu)

Southwest Utah Public Health Department – Cold and Flu Season

Utah 2012-13 Seasonal Influenza Surveillance

Utah Department of Health flu report for week ending Dec. 15 (.PDF)

St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this report.

Email: avmorgan@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

Weekly U.S. Map: Influenza Summary Update for week ending Dec. 15, 2012 | Image by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

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