WA, North Idaho see increase in hospitalizations, deaths due to flu

WA, North Idaho see increase in hospitalizations, deaths due to flu

Officials from the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) and Panhandle Health District (PHD) are seeing marked increases in flu hospitalizations and deaths.

This has prompted a reminder to residents in both areas to get vaccinated and, if a person does become ill, to consult with a healthcare provider about diagnosis and possible treatment with antiviral drugs.

This season, 179 people have been hospitalized in Spokane County with laboratory-confirmed flu, compared to 57 admissions during the same period last year.

Seven deaths are now attributed to flu in the county, compared to one death at this time last year.

Twenty-one influenza deaths have been reported in Washington state for this season.

Idaho has had 13 deaths so far this season, making it the deadliest for this time of year since 2010. Eight of those deaths have been within Idaho’s five most northern counties which is the same region for the Panhandle Health District.

Public health officials recommend that all people 6 months of age and older get immunized against flu. The vaccine promotes antibody protection within two weeks.

“We are seeing flu cases throughout northern Idaho,” said Jeff Lee, PHD epidemiologist. “Typically, the peak of the flu season is January through March, so it’s not too late to get a flu shot.”

The flu vaccine works best among healthy adults and older children. Some older people and people with certain chronic illnesses might develop less immunity than healthy children and adults after vaccination. However, even for these people, the flu vaccine still may provide some protection

“Most people who get the flu will have mild illness and recover quickly, but certain groups are at high risk for developing flu complications that can sometimes result in hospitalization and occasionally death,” said Mark Springer, SRHD epidemiologist. “Your best chance at protecting your loved ones, and yourself, from flu is to get a flu shot.”

Flu viruses spread when people with flu expel droplets from their mouths or noses while coughing, sneezing or talking. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby.

People can also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose.

In addition to flu vaccination, both health districts also recommend frequent hand washing with warm water and soap, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home if sick.