Cases of flu sweeping across US; 170 hospitalized in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY — Many Utahns are currently coughing, achy and weak. Flu season is in full swing, and doctors say within the past few weeks they've seen a spike in cases in Utah.

"We're seeing children with the flu, the elderly with the flu. People over 65 are at higher risk and children under the age of 2 are at higher risk of complications of the flu," said Adams Balls, Riverton Hospital Health.

According to the CDC, widespread flu strains have more than doubled throughout in the last week. States affected include Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming.

The predominant strain is type A which is also known as H1N1. The virus infected more than 22 million people in only four months in 2009. Doctors now call it the seasonal flu, and it's what the flu shot protects against. However, only about 30 to 40 percent of adults in Utah get vaccinated annually, according to the Utah's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

"Nearly 10 percent of our adult cases were vaccinated prior to being hospitalized. Nearly half of our pediatric patients were vaccinated prior to being hospitalized," said Utah Department of Health representative, David Jackson.

So far this season, Jackson said 170 people have been hospitalized for the flu, and about 100 of those reported cases have occurred in the greater Salt Lake area. Doctors expect the number of flu cases will continue to rise in January and February.

"If you haven't been vaccinated yet, it's always recommended even at this point of the flu season," Balls said.

CDC officials recommend anyone over the age of 6 months to get a flu shot. The vaccine is still available statewide.


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Devon Dolan


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