Health officials say influenza is rapidly spreading around Utah. The state Department of Health has logged more than 200 flu-related hospitalizations this season. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 36,000 people die every year from the flu. So far in Utah, there are no confirmed deaths, but state health officials only track flu-related deaths in children. Health department epidemiologist David Jackson says vaccines are still available. Most people are eligible, except for babies under 6 months.
“It’s not too late, even though we’re in the throes of the season, activity is still quite strong,” Jackson says. “It can take a week or two to build up antibody levels to a vaccine, but based upon previous influenza seasons, we’re certain that we have several weeks left of influenza circulating in our communities.”
Jackson says the vaccine protects against the predominant strain this year - H1N1, otherwise known as the swine flu. H1N1 caused a global pandemic in 2009 because many people had not yet been exposed to it. Now it’s considered a seasonal flu. Traditionally, the youngest and oldest parts of the population were considered most vulnerable to flu, but Jackson says more than a third of those hospitalized this year are between the ages of 25 and 49. On average, about 30 to 40 percent of Utah adults get a flu vaccine.