This season’s flu considered an epidemic

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The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has deemed this season’s flu as a national epidemic, linking 7.3 percent of last week’s deaths to the virus.

According to the CDC’s flu advisory report, 47 states are reporting widespread activity, Utah being one of them. The only states who have not yet experienced widespread activity are California, Hawaii and Mississippi.

This flu season has hit with incredible strength and many pharmacies have run out of flu vaccines. Photo by Sarah Hill

To date there have been 20 deaths of people under the age of 18 this season. The CDC does not have a record of the number of adult deaths thus far, however, data concludes that dozens have died due to influenza.

Utah has been categorized as ‘high’ for influenza‐like illness activity levels by the Utah Department of Health with 233 hospitalizations this season. It has hit people aged 65+ the hardest, making up 35.6 percent of the cases reported in Utah.

Among the counties, Utah County has ranked as one of the highest for hospitalizations, with 17 on record.

“Utah is currently experiencing what is referred to as ‘widespread’ activity. Basically, that means that all districts are reporting it in fairly high numbers,” Lance Madigan, the risk communication coordinator of the Utah County Health Department said. “We have not only seen flu earlier this year, but more of it. Flu generally peaks in late January to mid-February, but we’ve seen a lot already this year.”

The flu has not caused a notable disruption for BYU yet this year.  As far as students missing classes or professors having to cancel lectures, “We have not had reports of this being a major issue,” Rulon Barlow, director of student health services at BYU, said.

The Missionary Training Center has been less fortunate, with a recorded 250 cases reported according to the Deseret News. Because the Norovirus is so easily spread, places like the MTC are easy targets for the flu virus.

Scott Trotter, LDS Church spokesman, told the Deseret News, “Sick individuals are being treated by skilled doctors and are receiving the best care available. The MTC is taking steps to keep others from getting sick.”

The MTC has been commended for its efforts to get the virus under control, and the storm seems to have been calmed.

“Currently there are no cases of influenza at the MTC,” Trotter said.

Though this season’s flu has been relentless, there are still ways to lessen your chances of being infected.

“Get your flu shot,” Madigan said. “While some say it isn’t effective or not as great of a match as some years, it is the best protection we have against the flu. Even in the case that it isn’t a good match, such as the B strain this year, studies have shown that people don’t have as severe reactions or complications if they have received the flu shot.”

Madigan also gives helpful tips such as washing your hands regularly throughout the day, disinfecting surfaces such as table tops and door knobs, avoiding touching your face, and most importantly,staying home if you are sick.

“There are many things we would encourage people to share, but the flu is not one of them,” Madigan said.

This season’s severity can be explained because this strain, known as H3N1 and Influenza B, is new, and our immune systems, without a vaccine, are unfamiliar with it. Last year was considered generally mild because the H1Na influenza was the same strain that had been around for years, allowing immune systems time to adapt.

Flu vaccines are available at many pharmacies, physician offices, and local health facilities. However, as the season progresses, supplies become scarce, so it is advised to receive the vaccination as soon as possible.

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