Since the beginning of September, the deaths of three Utah women have been linked to the H1N1 swine flu and 127 Utahns have been hospitalized.
And Utah's rate of influenza-like illness, as assessed by the state Health Department, has been above the "outbreak" level for the second consecutive week, officials announced Wednesday.
"If you think of an outbreak occurring on a bell-shaped curve, we appear to be at the base of what could be a steep climb to the peak," said Rachel Herlihy, the department's deputy state epidemiologist.
The women were from Salt Lake, Utah and Weber counties. These are the first deaths to occur in the 2009-10 flu season.
The severity of Utah's cases does not appear to have changed -- instead, more people are becoming ill with H1N1 flu, so more are developing severe illnesses, state officials explained.
Each of the state's 12 local health departments is setting its own policy for distributing the limited supply of H1N1 vaccine in the state. Generally, only certain age groups currently qualify for vaccination.
"It makes the most sense for us to vaccinate those who are high risk first," said Gary Edwards, executive director of the Salt Lake Valley Health Department. "We hope the public will be patient, understanding that over the next few weeks we should have enough vaccine to start immunizing everyone who falls into a priority group." http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_13561188