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Utahns prepare for arrival of flu season

SALT LAKE CITY -- Flu season has started, and influenza vaccines are now available.

Only the injectables are available this season. Like last season, the nasal mist vaccine is not available.

“The nasal mist vaccine was proven to be ineffective,” said Dr. Audrey Stevenson, the Salt Lake County Division Director of Family Health Services.

Last September an 8-year-old girl from Park City, Mackenzie Coyne, died from the flu, even though she got the nasal vaccine. The American Academy of Pediatrics later came out saying the nasal vaccine had been ineffective for the previous three flu seasons.

Dr. Stevenson said flu season typically starts in Utah in late October and November, then peaks in January and February.

“It depends on the year and a lot of other things are going to influence that, travel to other places where there is flu going on, change in seasons” Dr. Stevenson said.

Weather is also a factor, especially when it comes to Salt Lake Valley’s inversions. The number of flu cases spike when the inversions settle in the valley.

“We know that it’s in our communities, we know it’s going to be a problem every year," Stevenson said.

She said if you get vaccinated now, the vaccine will last until the end of the flu season, typically in May. However, if you wait until April to get vaccinated, you will still be protected the same way, even though you waited until late in the season to get it.

“It’s really lifesaving; every year we see tens of thousands die from the flu, and then we see as many as a quarter of a million people who are hospitalized [nationwide] because of complications from the flu," Stevenson said.

The Utah Department of Health reported the last flu season hospitalized 1,404 Utahns.