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January 9, 2024

Two Salt Lake County Children Have Died From Influenza So Far This Season

Nicholas Rupp - Email

(SALT LAKE COUNTY)—The Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) announced today that two children in the county have died from influenza in the last 30 days. These are the first confirmed flu-related deaths of someone under age 18 in the county in the 2023–24 influenza season. So far this season, three people over age 50 have also suffered a flu-related death.

None of the five deceased individuals have record of receiving an annual flu vaccine for the 2023–24 influenza season. SLCoHD is not releasing additional details about the individuals due to medical privacy laws.

“These deaths are a tragic reminder that influenza is a serious disease,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, executive director of SLCoHD. “Everyone six months and older should get a flu shot every year to prevent serious illness and death, and to avoid getting others sick.”

In Salt Lake County, 353 people have been hospitalized from the flu since October 1. Most of those hospitalized are over the age of 50, followed by children under age 4.

Health officials say this flu season is slightly unusual in that multiple strains of influenza are active in the community.

“Typically, we see one strain responsible for most cases through the season’s peak, and a few early or late cases due to other strains,” said Ryan Chatelain, SLCoHD epidemiologist, “but this year, we have three strains actively circulating in the middle of the season.”

According to the U.S. 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 into May.

All three of the strains currently circulating—type A(H1N1), type A(H3N2), and type B(Victoria)—are included in the 2023–24 flu vaccine. The flu vaccine helps prevent illness and, in “breakthrough” cases when a vaccinated person still becomes infected, the vaccine lessens the severity and duration of illness.

“This year’s seasonal flu vaccine is well-matched to the virus strains we’re seeing in circulation,” said Dr. Dunn. “Vaccination is the best defense against being hospitalized or dying from the flu.”

SLCoHD reminds people that COVID and RSV are also causing serious illness in the community right now and, like influenza, both are vaccine-preventable (only people over 60, under 8 months, or pregnant are eligible for the RSV vaccine).

The health department encourages people to receive annual respiratory illness vaccines not only to protect themselves, but also to protect loved ones who may be more susceptible to serious complications from a respiratory illness.

In addition to encouraging vaccination, you can help prevent illness by washing hands thoroughly and often and staying home from work and school when you are ill.

Flu and COVID vaccines are available throughout the community, including at pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and Salt Lake County immunization clinics (call 385-468-SHOT to make an appointment). RSV vaccine is available at pharmacies and health care providers.

“Getting vaccinated is easy,” Dr. Dunn said, “and it saves lives.”