Southern Utah, Nevada report season's first flu-related deaths and hospitalizations – St George News


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ST. GEORGE — The 2018-2019 flu season is underway, and local health departments have reported the first flu-related deaths and hospitalizations in the area as the peak of flu season begins.

As of Dec. 29, which is week 52 of the current flu season, there were 106 confirmed cases of flu-related hospitalizations and three flu-related deaths in the Southern Nevada Health District, one of which was a child in the 0-4 year age group while the other two were adults in the 50-64 age group. Flu cases are reported on a weekly basis, and reports are available on the district’s website.

“These flu-related deaths are tragic reminders that influenza is a serious illness,” Joe Iser, the district’s chief health officer, said in a press release. “It is not too late to get vaccinated this season, and we want to remind everyone to get a flu shot and to practice healthy habits to protect yourself and your family.”

No deaths have been reported in the Southwest Utah Public Health Department’s five-county district so far, but there have been three flu-related hospitalizations including one this week, Dave Heaton, the department’s public information officer said.

The flu presence in Southern Utah is actually lower than average this season, Heaton said. Flu-related hospitalizations in the area are less than half the current rate for the state as a whole.

“We’re actually below average for flu activity for this time of year,” Heaton said. “But it is here. We have had those three hospitalizations and the virus is present in our community.”

The Utah Health Department publishes a weekly report throughout the flu season, including statistics, comparisons and flu severity. So far this season, the state has seen 103 seasonal flu-related hospitalizations and two pediatric deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the flu has caused between 9.3 million and 49 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 960,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 79,000 deaths annually since 2010. This season, there have been 1,562 flu-related hospitalizations and 13 pediatric deaths.

Flu season typically peaks in January and February, and there is still time to receive a flu vaccine. Contact information for each of the five county health departments can be found on the Southwest Utah Public Health Department’s website.

It takes about two weeks after receiving a vaccination for it to become fully effective. While the flu vaccination is not guaranteed to prevent the flu, it often does keep a person from contracting it or reduces the symptoms if they do.

The effectiveness of the vaccine depends on how well it is matched to the season’s particular virus strain. While the effectiveness of this year’s vaccination will not be determined until after the season is over, Heaton said that so far it appears to be a pretty good match.

Most flu patients this season have tested positive for H1N1, or the swine flu, which caused a global pandemic in 2009 and has come back in varying amounts every year since, Heaton said. This year’s flu vaccine does provide protection from H1N1, producing fairly good results.

The health department encourages everyone over the age of 6 months to receive a flu vaccination, especially those considered high risk: children under the age of 5, adults 65 years of age and older, and pregnant women.

A  yearly flu vaccination is the the best way to prevent seasonal flu, but good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.

The health department offers six tips for avoiding the flu:

Stay away from sick people. Try to avoid being in close contact with people who are sick. Those who are sick should keep their distance from others to avoid getting them sick too.

Stay home. If possible, those who are sick should stay home from work, school and errands to help prevent spreading it to other people.

Cover mouth when sneezing. Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or elbow can help prevent the airborne germs from spreading to others.

Wash hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

Avoid touching face. Germs can spread when a person touches something that is contaminated and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.

Practice good health habits. Clean and disinfect surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is sick. Getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, manage stress and consuming plenty of fluids and nutritious foods can all help prevent sickness.

Email: mshoup@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews |@MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.



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