It's now officially flu season.

No need to stock up on hankies yet, maybe, but you might want to get a vaccine, says the Utah Department of Health. And this year it looks like there will be an adequate supply, according to officials.

The influenza becomes officially reportable when it leads to hospitalizations, and there were two this week in Salt Lake County. That's two weeks earlier than the first hospitalized cases last year.

But influenza activity in Utah is still being classified as "sporadic," because there are not yet high numbers of people reporting flu-like illnesses. Utah County is reporting a cluster of confirmed influenza cases in Provo, but none of the affected people has been hospitalized, says Utah County Health Department spokesman Lance Madigan.

Even though flu hospitalizations have come earlier this year, that doesn't mean it's an earlier flu season than normal, says Utah Department of Health epidemiologist Susan Mottice. "That's an inference you cannot jump to, because we might not have another case for another month, or it could be we have 100 cases tomorrow. We just have to see what Mother Nature brings us."

Children under 5 and people who are over 65, have chronic medical conditions or are healthcare workers are encouraged to get flu shots. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide full protection.

Officials are also reminding people with flu symptoms to stay home from work, school and family gatherings. They're also reminding those folks to "cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue," to frequently clean their hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and to ask their doctors about a pneumococcal vaccine if they're over 65.

For more information, contact the Immunization Hotline at 1-800-275-0659, or check the Flu Vaccine Locator at to find an influenza vaccination clinic.

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