No new deaths from the novel H1N1 flu were reported by Utah health officials during Wednesday's weekly tally, indicating the statewide outbreak appears to be slowing.

A total of 245 Utahns have been hospitalized with illnesses associated with the flu virus, up 35 from last week's tally of 210.

"We will continue to track the outbreak and will monitor any changes in the severity of illness people are experiencing," said state epidemiologist Dr. Robert Rolfs. "It's still very important that people not let their guard down in helping limit the spread of disease."

In a press release, officials with the Utah Department of Health said "several indicators suggest the outbreak has peaked in Utah" as a whole, though some local areas "are still seeing high influenza activity."

While the news seems encouraging, officials said they are now preparing for an increase in the number of cases, and possibly in severity, during the upcoming fall and winter months.

"Countries in the Southern Hemisphere are just now entering their flu seasons, so we may be able to get some clues based on how the virus behaves in that part of the world," Dr. Rolfs said. "It would be wise for families and businesses to begin to develop emergency plans as a precaution," he added.

Families are encouraged to update their emergency stockpiles, including food, water, tissue, sanitizers, over-the-counter medications and prescription medications, and to prepare plans to care for children who may become ill and require care during the work week.

Business are urged to establish policies for telecommuting arrangements, the use of sick-leave benefits and best practices for limiting the spread of the virus in the workplace. For information and tips on preparation, visit the department's Web site at www.health.utah.gov/h1n1.