If the current trend holds, local residents can expect to see the year’s flu season in full swing over the next few weeks.
So far local reports put the flu’s spread in Tooele County almost exactly on par with last year’s numbers, said Louise Ekenstam, an epidemiology nurse with the Tooele County Health Department.
Last year’s season remained relatively quiet through the first part of November, but saw a substantial uptick in reported cases during the last week of November and the first week of December, she said.
The county has already had one person hospitalized for flu this year, but so far the upcoming flu season looks to be about average, Ekenstam added. Epidemiologists have yet to identify any unusual strains that are likely to spread this winter.
Influenza is active from September to May, with the majority of cases occurring between November and March, said Ekenstam.
Though this year’s influenza looks a lot like the typical flu, Ekenstam said all individuals ages 6 months and older are encouraged to get vaccinated for the virus. Vaccination is especially important for young children, individuals over age 50, and those with health conditions such as asthma or diabetes. These populations are at risk of developing complications if infected by the virus.
But the purpose of vaccination is two-fold, Ekenstam said. Those who get the vaccine not only reduce their own risk of falling ill, but also help prevent the spread of the virus.
To try to build this kind of herd immunity in local schools, where the virus often spreads quickly, the health department has offered the flu shots at every school in the district, as well as several day cares.
Through this effort, the health department has administered vaccines to roughly 50 percent of the county’s youth. This should cut back on the spread of the virus, but still isn’t enough to prevent the spread of the flu entirely, Ekenstam said.
The health department continues to offer flu clinics every Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., except holidays. Walk-ins are welcome, and those without insurance may qualify for discounted vaccine.
Both the mist-style and traditional vaccine are available.