Surveillance data collected by the Utah Department of Health show that reports of influenza-like illness and related hospitalizations continue to increase at locations across the state.
In addition, the number of patient visits are continuing to climb and have exceeded the peak level witnessed during the 2004-2005 influenza season.
According to the statewide surveillance data, influenza continues to actively circulate and cause serious illness, especially in Utahns at high risk for complications.
During the last week, 43 influenza associated hospitalizations were reported to the public health department.
The cases makes a total of 81 influenza associated hospitalizations reported to date for the current year.
By comparison, there were a total of 253 related hospitalizations reported during 2004-2005, which was considered a mild influenza season.
Hospitalization rates continue to be highest in youngsters less than 1 year of age and seniors 75 years or older.
Additionally, the majority of hospitalizations have been associated with type A influenza.
The majority of the individuals hospitalized with influenza who were not in high-risk age groups were high-risk due to a chronic illness, noted public health officials.
Examples of the chronic illnesses in question include respiratory and cardiovascular disease.
There are several steps Carbon County residents may take to help prevent the spread of influenza as well as other respiratory illnesses.
"Staying home when you are sick and using good respiratory etiquette are ways to limit the spread of influenza," pointed out Dottie Flemett, nursing director for Southeastern Utah Health District.
"Respiratory etiquette includes frequently washing your hands with soap and warm water, and covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough," explained the local public health department nursing director.
Carbon County residents who think they have influenza may want to consider consulting with private health care providers for medical treatment, advised Flemett.
The typical symptoms of influenza include the abrupt onset of a fever, muscle aches and pains, cough and/or sore throat.
Prescription antiviral medications can reduce the duration and severity of influenza if taken within two days of when the symptoms appear.
People who get influenza should rest, drink plenty of liquids, avoid using alcohol or tobacco and take medication to relieve the symptoms.
For more severe illness, especially in children and the elderly, local residents should consult their physicians.
Influenza causes more severe illness among American children than any other vaccine preventable disease. However, getting vaccinated and practicing appropriate respiratory etiquette can prevent influenza in children and adults.
Influenza vaccine - shots and nasal spray - is still available in Utah, but may be difficult to get in some parts of the state. The following groups are considered high risk and should get an influenza vaccination as soon as possible:
Children 6 months to 2 years of age.
Adults 65 years of age and older.
Persons 2 years to 64 years with chronic medical conditions such as lung or heart problems.
All women who will be pregnant during influenza season.
Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Children 6 months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin therapy.
Health-care workers with direct patient care.
Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than 6 months of age.
"Most of the people who have been hospitalized with influenza have been in one of the high-risk groups for whom we most strongly recommend the vaccine," explained Dr. Robert Rolfs, state department of health epidemiologist. "If you are in one of those high risk groups and have not been vaccinated yet, now is the time to get the vaccine. If you have an infant in the household who is not old enough for the vaccine, then please make sure that the people who have contact with that infant have been vaccinated. The vaccine is your best protection."
For additional information, Carbon County residents with Internet access may visit the department's website at to http://www.health/utah/gov/flu. Local residents may also contact physicians or the Southeastern Utah Health District in Price.