H1N1 virus is back this flu season, officials say

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The h1n1 virus is making a comeback in Utah.

Doctors warn it's the same strain seen during the 2009 flu pandemic. The World Health organization estimates more than 280,000 people were killed by the virus.

The state's epidemiologist says it's too early to tell whether there will be another outbreak of H1N1, but doctors confirm they've already treated Utahns for the virus and caution people to get the flu shot.

"Flu is a highly contagious disease particularly when you're having a fever," said Dr. Ryan Peterson who treats patients at the Intermountain Instacare in Murray.

Peterson noticed a spike in flu cases. One of the common strains he’s seen this year is the H1N1 virus.

flu season starts in October and typically peaks in January, according to the Utah Department of Health.

Forty-four people have been hospitalized so far since this season due to complications of the virus. Although officials expect that number to climb, physicians say people shouldn’t panic.

"There's probably quite a few people who have some immunity from h1n1 because they previously experienced illness back then," said Dr. Allyn Nakashima of the Utah Department of Health.

Nakashima said most Utahns will probably be fine; this year's flu shot includes immunizations for the different h1n1 strains.

"If you can come to see us soon enough, we can help you out but it's important you start medication within a 2-day window, it's most effective if we use it then," Peterson said.

Physicians believe anti-viral medicine like Tamiflu can be effective especially for the elderly, young kids and people with low-immune systems. For others plenty of rest will usually do the trick.

Nearly 1,000 Utahns were hospitalized for complications from the flu in 2012. Of those, 34 died.