WAYNE & GARFIELD COUNTIES – If you haven’t had the flu this year you might think you’ve licked it, but local health officials say we’re not quite out of the woods yet on flu season.
Josie Moosman, a registered nurse and clinical manager at Wayne Community Health Center, says that at the clinic they are still seeing influenza cases, and suggests that people continue to take precautions to protect their health, and also to get a flu shot if you haven’t had one, yet.
“We encourage people that if they have not received a flu shot yet that they come in and get it,” said Moosman. “People can still come in to get flu shots until the end of March.”
“Also, wash hands and clean surfaces. And people who are sick, just stay home. These are general precautions that we take with the flu every year,” added Moosman.
She said that WCHC’s recommended treatments for influenza and common cold include ibuprofen or Tylenol, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, zinc supplements, and rest. For some patients, Tamiflu is recommended.
“Only for those who are over 65 or who are immune compromised, at the onset of symptoms do we recommend Tamiflu. Tamiflu can shorten symptoms by a day or two, and this can help with the severity of symptoms for older people,” said Moosman.
David Heaton, Public Information Officer with the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, concurs that if you haven’t had one, getting a flu shot now is still a good idea. “No, it’s not too late, I just got mine today [on January 19],” said Heaton.
Heaton added that the recent numbers nationwide are still showing high flu activity—and that while health officials are hoping that the peak in incidence has already happened, it will be difficult to tell for a few weeks.
“How we measure flu activity is what we called ‘influenza like illness,’ or ILI—fever, cough, sore throat–and right now in southern Utah that is in the moderate range. We have our fingers crossed that it’s peaked, but it will be a while before we know,” said Heaton.
Data from the Utah Dept. of Health showed that ILI activity in 2016 didn’t peak until March. In many years, flu activity can continue through June.
More specifically, and to compare with last year, Heaton said, “As of last week there have been 119 people hospitalized with ILI in in the Five County area since October 1, and in Utah as a whole there have been 858 since October 1. This is higher than last season.”
In 2017 there were a total of 121 hospitalized cases total for Southwest Utah, for the entire year.
“This more active flu season is due to the H3N2 strain, which is a little more virulent,” said Heaton. He added that the Southwest Utah region currently does not have any conclusively reported deaths due to flu. (Two flu deaths reported in Wayne County occurred in individuals who were traveling through the county.)
“People that do get hospitalized or die are people over 65 they take the brunt of flu season so they should get vaccinated every fall.” Heaton.
Jeanee Shakespeare, a registered nurse who works in infection control at Garfield Memorial Hospital, says at the hospital they are continuing to see flu cases as well, and as of last week she felt that cases were still definitely on the increase, although Garfield Memorial has not seen hospital beds crowded with flu patients as other parts of the country have.
“We’ve certainly seen a sharp increase since the holidays, and have had patients hospitalized with influenza,” said Shakespeare.
“We have not seen any influenza-related deaths in our facility,” she added.
Shakespeare noted that the increase in flu cases they’re seeing is due to the H3N2 type. “The vaccine effectiveness against H3N2, in the past has been about 30%, but we’re still recommending that people get the flu vaccine, because it can be helpful.”
“Even if you get H3N2, the vaccine will still provide some protection,” said Shakespeare.