Flu season keeping emergency departments in Utah busy

SALT LAKE CITY -- The flu season is in full swing. The Centers for Disease Control says Utah is one of several states with widespread illness of influenza, and local hospitals are seeing the impact.

“Today was a busy shift; busier than average,” said Brian Oliver, Vice Chair for an Intermountain Healthcare Emergency Department.

Many of the patients present with the same symptoms, and in most cases the culprit is the flu.

In Utah, hundreds have been hospitalized and a handful have died because of the flu this season. While most patients go to an instacare, physicians are seeing a spike at the emergency department—and it's not just with the elderly.

“We're seeing quite a number of people in their 30s and 40s we normally wouldn’t see because they're feeling that sick,” Oliver said.

But why is fighting the flu so difficult this year?

“It's worse because the vaccine wasn't as effective as most years,” Oliver said.

The CDC says the vaccine—while never 100 percent—is only about 30 percent effective this season, meaning more people are at the emergency department.

“People are sicker but we still send home two-thirds of the flu patients,” Oliver said.

Doctors suggest staying home and riding the sickness out. If you need to see someone, go to instacare. Doctors say rarely will you have to make a trip to the emergency department for the flu.

“If you are really worried, you have life threatening symptoms, the emergency department is the place,” Oliver said.

The Utah Department of Health says it’s not too late to get your flu shot, and while it’s not as effective this year, they say some is better than none.