ST. GEORGE – Influenza cases are increasing across Southern Utah and southern Nevada and health officials are saying it’s not too late to get immunized.
“Flu activity in our district is elevated and widespread, which is actually to be expected this time of year,” Southwest Utah Public Health Department spokesman David Heaton said.
Hospitalizations related to influenza are increasing and there are also other viruses and flu-like illnesses going around, Heaton said.
“It’s been terrible this year,” Kristine Carter, a nurse practitioner at Intermountain Sunset Clinic in St. George, said. Carter said she has been seeing 20 patients a day with flu symptoms while working in the Sunset InstaCare Clinic.
Flu vaccination prevented an estimated 5 million flu-associated illnesses and 71,000 flu hospitalizations last season, information from the Centers for Disease Control states.
It’s not too late to get a flu shot and they are available at all the Southwest Utah Public Health Department offices in the five-county area.
“It takes a couple of weeks to build up optimum immunity after getting the shot,” Heaton said in an email. “But since flu activity could continue into the next couple of months, getting vaccinated is still a good idea.”
The flu vaccine is available in several injectable forms this year. All are formulated to protect against these influenza viruses: A (California)/ H1N1, A (Hong Kong/ H3N2 and B (Brisbane). Some vaccines also protect against B (Phuket).
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most frequently identified influenza virus subtype reported by public health laboratories this season has been influenza A (H3).
During the week of Jan. 15-21, the last for which data is available, Nevada was one of 37 states reporting widespread influenza activity. Utah was among 12 states experiencing regional influenza activity.
The Southern Nevada Health District continues to report increased flu activity in Clark County.
Since October, there have been a total of 238 confirmed influenza cases with one reported death in an adult over the age of 65, health district spokeswoman Stephanie Bethel said in a statement.
The number of confirmed cases far exceeds last year’s 125 confirmed cases, but the number of deaths is down so far this season compared to 11 at this time last year.
The number of hospitalizations this flu season is higher with 184 versus 90 at this time last year.
Flu season activity typically peaks in January and February, and the CDC recommends flu shots for everyone over the age of 6 months who has not yet received one. Flu shots are available at Southern Nevada Health District flu clinics.
The Mesquite Public Health Center is located at 830 Hafen Lane in Mesquite. Vaccinations are offered Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to noon and 1-3 p.m.
For information about public health clinics offering flu shots in Washington, Iron, Kane, Beaver and Garfield counties in Utah, see: Cold and flu season; not too late for immunizations
Besides getting a flu shot and seeking medical attention quickly if you do contract a flu-like illness, the Centers for Disease Control recommends taking these measures to prevent the spread of influenza and other viruses:
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you or your child gets sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you (or your child) stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.
- The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
- If an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs, follow public health advice.
Ed. note: Viewpoints vary on the wisdom of vaccinations and immunization; analysis of the topic is beyond the scope of this report.