ST. GEORGE, Utah -- The most recent flu reports from the CDC show flu season has started across the country. Early indicators are it could be one of the most severe in recent years.
Southwest Public Health Department directors say already nine people have been hospitalized due to influenza. It’s an early start for the seasonal virus.
In a weekly flu report released by the CDC this week, widespread flu activity was reported in 14 states.
“It’s beginning to hit,” said Southwest Public Health Department director Dr. David Blodgett. “Whether this is the full wave, or just a trickle at the beginning. Usually we can see as many as 50 to 100 hospitalizations during the height of the epidemic.”
A potentially tougher flu season is one reason many hospitals are tightening restrictions on visitors.
Effective December 1, Dixie Regional Medical Center officials say they’re asking visitors under the age of 14 to stay at home. It’s a preventative measure to protect some of their most vulnerable patients.
“We have posters up that encourage people, if they’re not feeling well, to go home if they’ve come to visit someone,” said Terri Draper, spokeswoman for Intermountain Healthcare southern region. “But in specific to our units where we care for our newborns and our premature babies.”
Blodgett said one of the reasons for a heightened flu season may lie in the vaccine. According to the CDC, an unforeseen drift virus is accountable for close to half of flu cases nationwide.
“How well that matches up each year is a bit variable,” Blodgett said. “It tends to be somewhere in the 70-80% range, but sometimes it can be a little less effective than that.”
While the chances of getting the flu are statistically higher this year, Blodgett said the vaccine is still one of the best ways to prevent getting sick. They also urge people to always wash hands and cover coughs.
More information on this year’s flu season outlook can be found on the CDC’s flu website, here: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm