CLEARFIELD – Influenza is already hitting parts of the United States hard and Utah is seeing an uptick in the number of cases.
But it’s not too late to be vaccinated and with holiday activities underway, it’s a good time to be immunized, protecting yourself and others at holiday gatherings, health officials say.
The Centers for Disease Control announced last week that there have been significant increases in flu activity in the past two weeks, especially in the southern United States.
Utah is currently classified as sporadic without sustained numbers of cases, said Davis County Health Department epidemiologist Brian Hatch. He reported that as of Friday there had been five cases confirmed in Davis County (that is five requiring hospitalization), but the department’s other means of disease surveillance are also showing an increase in the flu or flu-like symptoms.
He said physicians who use a rapid influenza test in their offices are also showing increased numbers.
“We all have different seasons to sickness,” Hatch said of the current surge in flu in the southern U.S. “Typically in Utah the flu peaks in January or February, but we have had years where the peak has been in December.”
With the exception of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, this is the earliest the nation has experience influenza-like illness since the 2003-2004 season, which was early and severe, said Melinda Wharton, acting director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases in a press release.
Hatch said we can expect to see a flu season. “Whether it will be as bad as they’re having in the south, I don’t know.”
That a flu season is expected is ample reason to be immunized. This year’s vaccine being distributed in doctor’s offices, pharmacies and clinics statewide is a good match to the strain of flu doctors are seeing, Hatch said.
“It’s never too late to be immunized,” Hatch said. “Generally it takes a couple of weeks to be fully protected, but you’re protected from the time you get the vaccine,” he said.
“Increasing flu activity should be a wake-up call. For anyone who has put off vaccination: It’s time to get your flu vaccine now,” Wharton said.
Hatch said with numerous large gatherings expected over the next few weeks, “it’s important to protect those around you by protecting yourself.”
Health providers urge anyone 6 months and older to be vaccinated, especially the very young, the elderly and anyone who is immune-compromised, Hatch said.
Pregnant women are especially being urged to get a flu shot.
On Friday the Utah Department of Health, CCDC and the World Health Organization joined in a statement encouraging pregnant women to get immunized against the flu.
“Because an infant under six months of age cannot get the vaccine, the baby relies on the antibodies that he or she gets from mom during pregnancy. These antibodies last several months after birth, and even longer when a mother breast feeds,” said Al Romero with the UDOH Pregnancy Risk Line.
He has been alarmed at the number of pregnant women who say they won’t get a flu shot. He said the flu vaccine is safe during pregnancy and that getting protected from the flu is one of the healthiest activities a mom can do for herself and her baby this season.