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Local hospitals see increase in flue cases - Ogden Clinic provided source, Standard-Examiner 01/15/2014

(Standard-Examiner) OGDEN – Five people have died from illness complications statewide.

Influenza is well under way in Utah with widespread cases across the state.

Five people have died from influenza complications, according to the Utah Department of Health, and 369 have been hospitalized. Layton resident Kerry Collett was released from McKay-Dee Hospital recently after spending 14 days in the intensive care unit. Her husband, Chuck, said his wife developed acute respiratory failure caused by the H1N1 strain.

Local hospitals are also seeing an increase in influenza cases and expect to see more in the coming weeks.

"We are seeing quite a few patients with flu right now, even more than usual for this time of the year," said Kim Hale, director of infection control at Ogden Regional Medical Center.

McKay-Dee Hospital emergency department manager Kathy Calton and Leslie Christiansen, director of the emergency department at Davis Hospital and Medical Center, said they are also seeing an increase in influenza among their patient population.

"We have seen an increase in respiratory illnesses, both in admitted patients and discharged to home patients," Calton said. "We have diagnosed H1N1 as well as other strains of flu and viral illness. As always, young and elderly have fewer reserves to fight infections so they can become very ill. H1N1 seems to make the younger adult population quite ill."

Christiansen said many patients have tested positive for the flu and several have been admitted to the hospital.

In a telephone interview with the Standard-Examiner Tuesday afternoon, Lyn Finelli, chief of surveillance and outbreak response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said H1N1 is the same illness that caused a worldwide epidemic in 2009.

"H1N1 is not any more deadly or strong than many other strains that have circulated but there are some susceptible groups," she said. "We have a group of people between 25 and 50 who are starting to get chronic conditions such as heart and kidney disease and diabetes, which can cause complications in influenza. We also have a population of people between 25 and 55 who have low levels of vaccination. We are seeing a lot of hospitalizations and deaths in people who are too young to be hospitalized and too young to be dying."

Finelli said by this time last year, influenza had peaked. This year it's a different story.

"The flu has not peaked in the majority of the country and will not for several weeks," she said. "We also often have a peak in influenza B later in the season during February, March and April, so people need to continue to be vaccinated. That's the best way to prevent the flu and its complications."

Dr. Jason Church, a pediatrician at Ogden Clinic, said if you do become sick, call your doctor to determine whether you should stay home, go to the emergency room or an after hours clinic.

"Anyone who has become severely dehydrated, disoriented, lethargic or who has had high fevers for more than six days may require hospitalization and should probably present to the ER," Church said. Other things that might require a trip to the ER would be difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, especially in the very young, elderly and those with underlying lung conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and asthma.

It's also not too late to get vaccinated.

"I would also suggest that the best treatment for influenza is prevention through immunization. The greater the percentage of the population that is immunized, the less likely flu will reach epidemic levels," he said. "As a pediatrician, the most common excuses I hear from those who do not want to get vaccinated is 'I don't get sick' or 'My uncle Jim got the flu shot and it gave him the flu.' The truth is that since the flu infects anywhere from five to 20 percent of the population each year, many who do not get the flu shot are falsely reassured that they don't need it when they get through flu season without it."

Unfortunately, it only takes one particularly virulent influenza virus to cause an epidemic or even pandemic, Church said.

The flu vaccine does not cause the flu. Less than 1 percent of those who receive the flu shot may have fever, body aches, cough and other symptoms, he said.

"But this is a mild reaction to the immunization and not influenza. The remaining 99 percent have no significant symptoms at all. Despite the fear propaganda that I hear daily regarding vaccines, they are extremely safe and extensively tested before being released for use in the general population," Church said. "I cannot imagine knowing that I might be responsible for the death of another person, perhaps my own child, because I exposed them to a vaccine-preventable disease simply by not getting immunized myself. It is not worth the risk, to not get vaccinated."

Symptoms of Influenza:

- Fever

- Cough

- Sore throat

- Runny or stuffy nose

- Muscle or body aches

- Headaches

- Fatigue (tiredness)

- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults. The best protection from the flu is prevention. Get vaccinated. This will protect you, and your family members.

Hand washing is always important in disease prevention.

Employ proper cough etiquette by coughing into the crook of your elbow instead of your hands, wear a respiratory mask if you have an illness involving a cough, and maintain a distance of 6 feet or more from anyone known to have influenza.

If you have the flu, you should stay home from work or school one week from symptom onset or 24 hours of no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, whichever is longer.

SOURCE: Dr. Jason Church, CDC