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Flu spreading rapidly in recent weeks in Salt Lake County

SALT LAKE CITY – Flu activity has gone up dramatically all over the country, according to doctors at the CDC.  Health officials here say Utah is seeing a similar, troubling trend.

Salt Lake County had been going through a “mild” flu season since the beginning of November.  However, just over the course of last week, that changed to “moderate.”

“We’ve had 83 new cases this last week.  That’s almost double what we had seen in prior weeks,” according to Salt Lake County Epidemiology Bureau Manager Ilene Risk.

Technically, the county still has fewer hospitalizations than it had at this point last year, however, Risk says, “If we see that kind of jump, if we double that over the next week, it would be really concerning.”

The county has seen a total of 250 hospitalizations since November, but Risk says there estimate there are far more people who didn’t see a doctor.

“We estimate that we have anywhere about 34 thousand influenza cases in the community,” Risk says.

The dominant strain is the H1N1 “swine flu” virus, and it affects people slightly different than other strains.  Normally, the flu affects infants and the elderly more severely, however, Risk says, “People between the ages of 25 ad 49, and a little bit younger, are at greatest risk and, typically, they have the   lowest rate of vaccination in those age groups.”