HEALTH

Utah faces unusual flu season with third pediatric death

Feb 23, 2024, 11:51 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health says a child has died from the flu, the third in the current season. Health experts are raising concerns over the unusual patterns the state is seeing this year with influenza.

Typically, this time of year marks a downturn in flu cases. However, doctors at Primary Children’s Hospital have noticed that while there has been a slight decrease, the number of cases is starting to plateau.

The flu’s impact on families has been particularly harsh this season.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a flu like this where it just knocks you out flat,” Julie Burr, a mother of five told KSL TV. The Burr family faced weeks of relentless fevers, aches, and pains, with every child contracting the flu in a seemingly never-ending cycle of illness.

Despite the severity, the Burr children did not require hospitalization — a small relief amidst the state’s nearly 1,500 flu hospitalizations this season.

Dr. Andrew Pavia of U of U Health and Primary Children’s Hospital noted an unusual stalling of case numbers, indicating a persistent flu presence in Utah.

“It’s a bad year. It’s not the very worst we’ve seen, but it’s a pretty bad year,” Pavia said.

In the dark cloud of illness, the effectiveness of this year’s flu vaccine has been a silver lining, with state epidemiologists confirming it’s good match against circulating strains. Pavia emphasized the importance of vaccination.

“When I was seeing a lot of sick kids in January, not a single one had been vaccinated,” Pavia said.

With much of the state still experiencing higher-than-normal flu activity, health officials are urging the public that it’s not too late to get vaccinated. The recommendation comes as a precaution against a potential second peak, similar to what some states are currently facing.

The Department of Health & Human Services advises everyone to get the vaccine, stay home if exhibiting symptoms, and maintain good hygiene practices. As families like the Burrs hope for an end to the flu’s rampant spread, the community is reminded of the importance of these preventative measures.

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Utah faces unusual flu season with third pediatric death