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1st Utah Influenza Death of 2015-16 Flu Season Reported

KUER File, Bob Nelson
Ilene Risk, epidemiology bureau manager with the Salt Lake County Health Department

Influenza has claimed its first Utah victim of this year’s flu season. Salt Lake County Health Department officials announced the confirmed case Monday; a 65 year-old resident who had not received the seasonal flu vaccine. Ilene Risk is epidemiology bureau manager for the county.  She says it's a tragic reminder that influenza is a deadly disease, but one that is preventable with vaccination.

“We’re starting to see influenza circulating in our community and so it’s a prime time to get vaccinated and flu cases continue to occur through May,” says Risk.

She says the current vaccine seems to be very effective, and it’s been a moderate flu season so far.

“Unfortunately we’ve had 42 cases of influenza that were ill enough to require hospitalization," Risk says, "but that compares to about 575 over the same time period last flu season.”

Risk says there were 39 influenza-related deaths in the entire 2014-15 flu season, and by this time last year there had already been 26 deaths from flu in Utah. County Health Department officials say the flu shot remains the number one defense against the virus. Risk says it’s always important to properly wash your hands and avoid contact with other people if you feel flu symptoms coming on.

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