Health officials expect flu numbers to rise

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SALT LAKE CITY - As temperatures continue to drop, health officials expect the influenza numbers to rise in Utah. The departments says that the flu starts to pick up in the middle and toward the end of December, though last year was an exception.

“Last year we saw a bit more of an increase in November,” said Rebecca Ward with the Department of Health.

Ward says that the early start last year resulted in a spike in hospitalized influenza cases, roughly 1300 of them.

"It's almost double what we saw in the 2013 season," points out Gregg Reed, an influenza surveillance epidemiologist for the Department of Health.

Reed says the same strain of the flu the dominated most cases last year, will likely be the dominant strain this year. However, this time around doctors will have the vaccine ready to fight it.

Health officials say people can get the flu vaccine by injection, intradermal, or nasal spray. They say it takes two weeks for the vaccine to reach full strength and predict the flu season to pick up in mid December.

In the meantime, Reed pushes Utahns to use common sense to avoid contracting the flu virus.

"Wash your hands, call into work if you're sick, cover your mouth and nose."

The Department of Health says the latest flu numbers will be released Wednesday. At that point, they'll have a better idea just how hard the flu is hitting Utah this year.