After a slow start to Utah’s flu season, the virus is in full swing. Health experts say the current strain is similar to last year’s.
According to the most recent data, flu season launched into high gear at the end of 2017. Salt Lake County is the only county to collect flu-specific deaths, where this season, five people died. Over 400 have been hospitalized statewide, most of whom are over 65 years old.
Gregg Reed is an influenza epidemiologist for the Utah Department of Health. He says the unique thing about the flu is how unpredictable it is.
"It can do a genetic mutation, a shift or a drift, and it makes it hard for the body to identify the virus. The nice thing about the strain this year is it’s very similar to the strain that is included in the vaccine," Reed says.
The current vaccine is estimated to be about 35 percent effective against the virus.
Reed says to stop the virus’s spread they’re promoting vaccinations and, besides that, basic preventative measures like washing your hands, staying home if you’re sick and wearing a mask.
According to county health department officials, as far as deaths go, all of last flu season had 20 deaths, compared to five so far this season. If that pace continues, this season’s strain will be less deadly.