Flu Season: Under the weather in the Inland Northwest

Flu Season: Under the weather in the Inland Northwest

This year’s flu has claimed 29 lives in Washington State. Seven of those deaths occurred in Spokane County.

13 Idahoans have died due to the flu.

Idaho’s Kellogg School District has closed all of it’s schools for the remainder of the school week, due to excessive illnesses. Initially, only Pinehurst Elementary was closed. 32% of it’s students were absent. They plan to reopen school on Monday,

The Panhandle Health District begins monitoring absentee rates as soon as they reach 8%. It typically recommends school closure once that rate has reached, and stayed at, 30% for several days.

Spokane Public Schools are currently at about a 5% absentee rate, which is average. The Spokane Regional Health District is usually monitoring those rates- the district reports once it reaches 10%.

“Last year’s was a light year for the flu, so it kind of lulled us and this year is a more typical one but, yeah, there are a lot of people with the flu,” said Dr. Dean Martz, the Chief Medical Officer at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital.

The flu is more than just the stomach bug it’s often associated with, but other respiratory illnesses are also causing problems in the Inland Northwest.

According to data from the Spokane Regional Health District cases of rhinovirus, adenovirus, R.S.V. and other cough-and-cold-causing bugs have ticked up in the past few weeks. That’s normal, during the winter sickness season.

But, it means local hospitals and urgent care facilities are swamped with patients. 257 people have been hospitalized since the beginning of the flu season, according to the SRHD information.

“Always better to communicate with your primary care physician and get good direction from them first, rather than seeking direct care at urgent care or the hospital,” Martz said.

If your symptoms create an emergency- like the inability to breathe- seek medical attention immediately.

Data from SRHD also shows that the strains of flu that are prevalent match this year’s predictions. Components of these strains are present in this year’s flu vaccine.
Because of the flu outbreak, SHMC has put visitor restrictions into place to keep the bug from spreading. Several members of the Seattle Mariners, who are in town to meet Spokane fans, had to cancel a planned visit to patients and families at the facility.