Utah has made it onto a list of states across America that are seeing a high level of influenza activity since the holidays, but Tooele County’s flu bug numbers so far remain minimal, state data shows.
According to an influenza activity map by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a swath of states mostly across the southern portion of the nation — including Utah — are experiencing high influenza activity.
But according to the Utah Department of Health, flu bug infections in Tooele County as of Dec. 29 are “minimal” while health department jurisdictions in Bear River, Salt Lake County, Davis County, Southwest Utah, Utah County and Weber-Morgan are rated as “high.”
Although current influenza activity in the county is barely reportable, that is expected to change since the holidays have passed.
“We do have flu activity in the county, but no hospitalizations as of now,” said Amy Bate, health promotion coordinator and public information officer for the Tooele County Health Department.
“It’s no more severe than last year at this time, but it’s on the increase since the holidays,” she said.
Bate said local influenza activity typically goes up after the holidays because people spend more time indoors or in close proximity to one another. Such closeness increases the chance of infection, especially for those who haven’t been vaccinated.
When the 2018-19 flu season began on Oct. 1, the county health department campaigned heavily for citizens to get vaccinated by the end of the month by either injection or nasal spray, commonly known by the trademark name of FluMist. Bate said the health department vaccinated 2,108 students at local schools during October. From Oct. 1 through Jan. 9, the health department has vaccinated 3,347 persons, she said.
She noted thousands more have likely been vaccinated at local clinics and pharmacies.
According to the CDC, all citizens at least 6 months old through adulthood should be vaccinated by the end of October before flu begins to take hold in a community and continues through spring. Peak time for flu is December through February.
Although it’s January, that shouldn’t stop people who have yet to get vaccinated, from rolling up their sleeves, according to Bate.
“It’s not too late to get vaccinated,” she said.
Bate said flu vaccinations by either injection or FluMist are available at the county health department Monday-Thursday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. She said most insurance plans are accepted. Self-pay is $30 per vaccination, but anyone under 18 years of age and without health insurance qualifies for free vaccinations.
She also said high-dose vaccinations for anyone 65 or older are also available. Self-pay is $58 per dose. Bate also said FluMist is only available through the end of January. It takes about two weeks after being vaccinated for antibodies that fight the flu to take full effect. The health department is located at 151 N. Main, Tooele.
Vaccinated or not, Bate stressed the importance of good hygiene to prevent the spread of influenza.
“If you’re sick, stay home,” she said. “And wash your hands — a lot.”
According to the CDC, flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people, especially children, may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may also be infected with flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
The CDC also reports that preventative steps — in addition to getting vaccinated — include avoid close contact with sick people, and to cover the nose and mouth with a tissue while coughing or sneezing. Afterward, throw the tissue in the trash and immediately wash hands with soap and water.
If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand rub instead.
Further preventative steps include avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth, which are the main areas flu germs enter the body. Also clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with flu germs.
For more information, call the county health department at 435-277-2301 or visit tooelehealth.org/flu-clinics/. More comprehensive information about influenza, prevention, treatment and the 2018-19 influenza season is available on the CDC’s website at cdc.gov.