COVID-19 will likely be Utah County’s top infectious disease of 2020.
Within a few months of appearing in the state, COVID-19 has gained more diagnoses than the county’s top infectious diseases traditionally have within a year.
Utah County had 1,358 of COVID-19 cases, as of May 11.
Chlamydia has traditionally been the top infectious disease reported to the Utah County Health Department, with 1,257 cases in 2018 and a five-year average of 999 cases a year, according to the department’s 2018 annual report. The department has not yet published its 2019 report.
Influenza had 1,203 cases that were reported to the Utah County Health Department in 2018, with a five-year average of 419.5 cases a year reported. There were 270 people hospitalized with the flu in 2018, up from the five-year average of 190.8 cases a year. The third-most-common infectious disease was gonorrhea, with 226 cases in 2018.
COVID-19 is expected to be the most-diagnosed infectious disease in Utah County this year, according to Lisa Guerra, the epidemiology coordinator for the Utah County Health Department.
Cases are tracked differently depending on the infectious disease. With pertussis, which, like COVID-19 is also a respiratory disease, there were 48 cases and no hospitalizations or deaths last year. Guerra said a pertussis case is counted not only if someone tests positive for it, but also if someone wasn’t tested, showed symptoms and was in close contact with someone who had a positive test. “With COVID, regardless of symptoms, you are considered a case if you test positive,” Guerra said.
The health department is searching for COVID cases through active testing, which it doesn’t do with illnesses like pertussis. The department has been reaching out to those who have come in contact with someone who has COVID-19 so that they can be tested.
Guerra said the department is searching for cases because COVID-19 is a newly emergent disease and health officials want to get a better picture of its impact on the community. Because of this, people who are not showing symptoms are being tested.
Gathering more data, Guerra said, will show how aggressive the virus is, how easily it is spread, and will hopefully help stop it.
COVID-19 diagnoses are creeping up on the past season’s flu numbers. The most recent flu season began in October 2019 and extended until the middle of March.
Utah County had 1,530 confirmed cases of flu that were reported to the health department, according to Guerra, with 158 people hospitalized and five deaths.
COVID-19 has led to 78 hospitalizations and 11 deaths in Utah County so far.
Streptococcus pneumonia, which is the cause of most pneumonia cases, led to 19 confirmed cases, 14 hospitalizations, and two deaths. Guerra said that people typically aren’t tested for streptococcus pneumonia unless the patient is hospitalized.
“It doesn’t mean it’s specifically aggressive,” she said. “It just means that testing may not be done because it is a blood test.”
COVID-19 was first diagnosed in Davis County in early March and was found in Utah County later that month. It was not spreading in Utah during the previous flu season.
“There is no truth to that rumor,” Guerra said.
The rise in COVID-19 diagnoses and the effort to track anyone who came in contact with a confirmed case has been an effort from the entire department.
“We have all been working together and everyone has been working on this,” Guerra said. “It has taken the whole health department.”