Two more Utahns have died as the novel H1N1 flu continues to spread throughout the Beehive State at a rate that officials say is "well above the epidemic threshold," for the reporting period June 14-20.
The Utah County Health Department reported a woman between the ages of 18 and 39 has died, and the Davis County Health Department reported the death of a boy between the ages of 5 and 17. As with several other Utah victims, both had underlying medical conditions, health officials said, adding no other information on either victim will be released.
The deaths bring the Utah total for novel H1N1 flu fatalities to 10.
The Utah Department of Health released new statistics Wednesday afternoon showing 81 more people have been hospitalized in the past week, bringing the total of hospitalized cases to 210.
Confirmed cases of the virus have now been identified in all of Utah's local health districts, though not all of those districts have seen patients hospitalized. Officials said the majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths have occurred along the heavily populated Wasatch Front.
Most of those hospitalized have risk factors including chronic lung, heart or kidney disease.
"The public remains our most important partner as we respond to this developing pandemic," said Dr. David Sundwall, health department executive director. "One thing we can be sure of is that this virus will continue to change over time and we want to make sure Utahns don't let their guard down in terms of protecting themselves and others."
Officials continue to monitor any changes in the severity of illness that those who contract the virus are experiencing. They are concerned that it may become more virulent in the fall and spread more widely as cold weather begins. If that happens, Utahns may be asked to take additional steps to limit its spread.
"Families should begin preparing for what they would need if they are asked to spend a week away from school, work or other activities. Now is the time to update, or create, your emergency stockpile. Items like food, water, tissue, sanitizers, over-the-counter medications and prescription medications are all useful items to have on hand in the event you become ill and are confined to your home," officials said in a press release.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now estimating the virus will be a Category 2, which means it has the following characteristics:
Case fatality ratio of 0.1 percent to less than 0.5 percent.
Between 90,000 and 450,000 deaths in the U.S. (compared with estimated 36,000 deaths during a typical influenza season).
Excess death rate of between 30 to less than 150 per 100,000 people.
Illness rate of between 20 percent and 40 percent.
Similar to the 1957 flu pandemic.51 comments on this story
State health officials have released an online set of guidelines for employers who are trying to determine how best to deal with the outbreak. Details may be found online at health.utah.gov/epi/h1n1flu/Q&As_Employer_061609_Final.pdf.
To avoid contracting or spreading the virus, officials are asking residents to cough or sneeze into a tissue and then dispose of it; wash hands with soap and water often or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers; avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth; and avoid close contact with sick people.