First flu hospitalization reported in Utah; vaccine available
Salt Lake County health officials are reporting the season's first influenza hospitalization, a child under age 18.
The flu typically blows into Utah and across the U.S. in October and sticks around through May.
"We've seen hospitalizations as early as the first week of October before," said Salt Lake County Health Department spokesman Nicholas Rupp.
One way in which the season is less than ordinary, however, is that it coincides with the federal shutdown and furlough of experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who monitor the spread of the contagious viral disease.
States and counties will still collect and report their flu data, but it won't be analyzed or published on the CDC's website until the shutdown ends.
In addition, the CDC won't be able to do its work to determine whether this year's vaccines are a good match for the flu strains circulating this year.
But private flu trackers, such as Google Flu Trends and Flu Near You will continue to map cases.
And the shutdown won't affect immunization programs.
"Our vaccines have already been purchased," said Rupp. Flu shots are also available in abundance at most drug stores and health clinics.
Utah's first flu case is a timely reminder for residents to get vaccinated the earlier, the better, said Rupp, noting it can take the body two weeks to build up immunity.
Salt Lake County Council members rolled up their sleeves and lined up for shots before their meeting Tuesday morning.
"This is an opportunity for us as public officials to set an example and encourage county employees and the public to get vaccinated," Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw said in a prepared statement.
Salt Lake County clinics alone last year dispensed more than 15,000 vaccinations.
The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months of age be vaccinated. Tens of thousands of Americans are sickened and hundreds die from the flu each year. In Utah, 985 children and adults were hospitalized for the flu last year.
Where to go
P Flu shots are available at Salt Lake County Health Department Public Health Centers (locations at http://www.slcohealth.org); appointments are required, call 385-468-4152 to schedule.