What Got Southern Utah Sick Last Year?
It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Dave Heaton, Public Information Officer for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, was on the radio for the Ounce of Prevention show this week and the topic turned to the highest communicable diseases that happened in 2023 in the five-county region served by the health department. The top of the list should be a surprise to no one.
“The number one, reported communicable disease, is COVID-19, the coronavirus that we had. And so, in 2023 in our five-county district, there were over 3000 cases reported. It should be interesting too, that as we talked about cases there are also unreported cases and so these are the confirmed reported cases that we received for the from these diseases and we also need to assume that there are cases that weren't tested or or reported, but at least guess this gives us a good snapshot overall of what those are,” Heaton said.
Number two was another respiratory infection and that's influenza. Heatoon explained, “that's always, of course been around. This is the seasonal flu. There were over 1300 cases reported in 2023. You can see there's about roughly three times as many COVID-19 cases reported last year than there were flu. Influenza (cases) will include both type A and type B,” according to Heaton.
Third on the list were STD’s or sexually transmitted diseases. “There were about 900 cases reported. We didn't see any significant outbreaks of those out of the ordinary, although our epidemiologists did say that overall, we are seeing a steady increase in reported STD’s. That has to do a little bit with that increasing population. With any increase in population, you're going to have bump ups of diseases,” Heaton explained.
“There are four STD's that we track and those are chlamydia, which is the most common and then the more serious gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV infection. A lot of people don't know that chlamydia, even though it's kind of spread quite easily and that's the highest reported one, they can be treated with antibiotics and so that's why it's important that people have those you have any concerns can get tested so they can get treated in case they do have one of those STD's,” Heaton continued.
The fourth highest reported disease was another respiratory disease. “Number four is RSV and that has been in the news a lot lately because we've seen more RSV activity along with flu and COVID over the past couple of years is these respiratory infectious diseases have really picked up speed, but also because there's now a vaccine being developed for RSV, for the more vulnerable people, which means folks over 60 can get an RSV vaccine and then pregnant mothers can get an RSV vaccine, which means that their infant would be born with immunity, which also works with the several other vaccines as well like flu and COVID,” Heaton told us.
“Number 5 on the list is a virus, but it's not respiratory, it's intestinal and it’s the norovirus. Now we're seeing cases go down quite a bit. There were about 140 cases in 2023 that reported norovirus, but they're probably far, far more out there. This is sometimes called the Cruise Ship Virus. It's gastrointestinal. It causes vomiting and diarrhea, and it spreads very easily. And so that's why they call it the cruise ship virus. If there's an outbreak (in) a place where it's enclosed, you know, (an) area where there's a lot of people interacting and different food outlets, then that can really spread like wildfire. So if that erupts in a home, even or care center (or) school. That's kind of just your classic stomach bug. A lot of times people call it the stomach flu, but flu is actually respiratory, like influenza. What we're probably having is no virus and maybe some kind of a food poisoning,” Heaton explained.
If you want to complete the top ten list that Dave gave us on the radio, you can listen to the complete Ounce of Prevention program below.
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