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Despite hospitalizations and swine flu reports, flu season in Utah is starting normally

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SALT LAKE CITY – At last count, four people are in Utah hospitals being treated for the flu. There are also reports of the H1N1 and H3N2 swine flu in the state. But doctors in Utah say it’s been a normal start to the flu season.

Dr. Andrew Pavia, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Utah and Primary Children’s Hospital, says they’re seeing about half a dozen flu cases every week, which is typical for this time of year.

Dr. Pavia thinks the handful of swine flu reports are also normal.

“They’re coming in, often from travelers and sporadic places,” Pavia says.

Dr. Pavia says health care professionals do not know how bad the flu season will be this year.

But he’s also strongly encouraging people six months and older to get a flu shot.

“Even otherwise perfectly healthy people can have very severe complications [from the flu]. If you look at the kids who end up dying of influenza every year, about half were otherwise healthy,” Pavia says.

People with heart or respiratory issues are more at-risk for having complications when they do get sick, as are young children and those over the age of 65.

One thing that concerns doctors is the current shortages of nasal mist and high dose flu vaccines.

“The high dose vaccine is more effective for people over 65. So, we recommend it as a first choice for people over 65. But if it is not available, don’t delay [getting a flu shot],” Pavia says.