Flu targeting younger age group
Published: Thursday, January 23, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2014 01:01
With the flu season at its peak, people between the ages of 18 and 64 are reporting more cases of influenza than normal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s important to take precautions against this highly contagious and widespread virus, according to Rebecca Ward, health educator with the Utah Department of Health in the bureau of epidemiology.
As of Monday, there were 478 influenza-related hospitalizations throughout the state of Utah, and it’s targeting the younger age group, Ward said.
According to the CDC, more than 60 percent of hospitalizations have been people between the ages of 18 and 64. Typically, the majority of hospitalizations are people older than 65.
Ward said this is a similar trend to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, because it is targeting a younger age group. However, she said there is something different about this year’s H1N1 strain.
“This time the illness has been more severe within that age group,” she said. “People are getting a little bit sicker, and we’re seeing perhaps more hospitalizations.”
Program manager for communicable diseases at Bear River Health Department Leona Goodsell said the district — which covers Cache, Rich and Box Elder counties — has had 13 flu-related hospitalizations as of Monday.
According to Goodsell, last year at the end of January there were 33 flu-related hospitalizations in the district, so this year is “pretty typical.”
Ward said there have been 12 flu-related deaths throughout Utah, one of which was in the Cache Valley district.
“But that number doesn’t mean anything,” she said. “We don’t actually track influenza deaths, only hospitalizations. They could have died of cardiac arrest or pneumonia.”
The CDC defines flu-related deaths as deaths that occur in people for whom seasonal influenza infection was likely a contributor to the cause of death, but not necessarily the primary cause of death.
According to the CDC, about 90 percent of influenza-associated deaths occur among adults 65 years and older.