January 25, 2016
Salt Lake County Health Department Reports First Flu Death of the Season
(Salt Lake County)—The Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) announced today that a county resident has died from influenza. This is the first confirmed flu-related death in the 2015–16 influenza season in the county. The individual was over the age of 65 and had not received the seasonal flu vaccine before becoming ill.
“This is a tragic reminder that influenza is a serious disease—but one that is largely preventable,” said Ilene Risk, epidemiology bureau manager for SLCoHD. “Everyone over the age of six months old should get a flu shot every year to prevent illness and to avoid making others ill.”
Influenza cases have been lower than normal so far this flu season but health officials say they’ve begun to see an increase in cases since early January. In Salt Lake County, 36 people have been hospitalized from the flu since October 1; most of those hospitalized are over the age of 50.
“This year’s seasonal flu vaccine is well-matched to the virus strains we’re seeing in circulation,” said Risk. “Vaccination is the best defense against getting ill.”
Because their immune systems are less robust than those who are younger, people over the age of 65 should receive a “high-dose” flu vaccine specifically formulated for seniors.
The health department encourages people to receive a yearly flu vaccine not only to protect themselves, but to also protect loved ones who may be more susceptible to serious complications from the flu.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu season is unpredictable in its severity, and the length of the season varies from year to year. In Utah, flu activity most commonly peaks in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.
In addition to encouraging vaccination, SLCoHD also reminds people to be diligent about washing hands correctly, and to stay home from work and school if they are sick.
Flu vaccine is available at many places in the community, from pharmacies to doctors’ offices, as well as at Salt Lake County Public Health Centers (locations at slcohealth.org; appointments are required—call 385-468-SHOT  to schedule).
“Getting vaccinated is easy,” Risk said, “and it saves lives.”