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Flu death toll in Washington state at 46, none in Whatcom County

The flu vaccine is recommended for those six months and older and especially for those at higher risk of complications from flu because of age or medical conditions.
The flu vaccine is recommended for those six months and older and especially for those at higher risk of complications from flu because of age or medical conditions. AP

The number of deaths caused by the flu in Washington state has climbed to 46 as the flu continued its grip on the state, according to information released Friday.

None of the deaths were in Whatcom County, which also has seen a spike in the number of people sickened by the flu during a season that hit hard and about a month early.

The deaths were for the flu season as of Jan. 7.

Illness kept students out of school and outbreaks occurred at long-term care facilities in Whatcom County.

Flu remained at epidemic levels in the state and was straining hospitals in Western Washington.

“We are seeing a lot of influenza and other respiratory infections in our medical offices, ED (emergency department/room) and hospital, and it is too early to tell if influenza has reached its peak,” said Greg Stern, Whatcom County health officer.

The flu strain is the one that makes for a more severe season, health officials said.

Flu activity in the state and Whatcom County, according to the latest data and health officials:

▪ There were 109 lab-confirmed cases of flu in Whatcom County for the week ending Jan. 7 – one fewer than the previous week, according to the Whatcom County flu report.

▪ The number of people hospitalized with the flu at PeaceHealth’s hospital in Bellingham dropped slightly to 19 as of Tuesday.

▪ “Hospitals and emergency departments are at capacity in Western Washington, from high influenza activity as well as from other causes,” Stern said. “They are working together and with the medical community to avoid unnecessary use of the (emergency room), and to open up hospital beds by minimizing unnecessary extensions of hospital stays and delays of transfers out of hospital.”

▪ Eleven schools in Whatcom County reported absenteeism rates of more than 10 percent on at least one day.

▪ Two flu outbreaks were reported by long-term care facilities in Whatcom County for the week ending Jan. 7.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

Flu symptoms

▪ Fever, or feeling feverish or having chills. However, not everyone with the flu gets a fever.

▪ Cough

▪ Sore throat

▪ Runny or stuffy nose

▪ Muscle or body aches

▪ Headaches

▪ Fatigue

▪ Vomiting and diarrhea, although this is more common in children than adults

You may feel some or all of the symptoms.

Because pneumonia is one of the complications of flu, public health officials recommend that everyone older than 65 get a pneumonia vaccine as well. It also is recommended for people with medical conditions that could make them more susceptible to pneumonia.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Prevent the spread

Get vaccinated: It’s the best protection against the flu. The vaccine is recommended for those six months and older and especially for those at higher risk of complications from flu because of age or medical conditions. Pregnant women should be vaccinated, as they are at higher risk of complications, and the transfer of antibodies to the fetus helps protect them as infants. It takes about two weeks after vaccination to reach full strength.

Find the vaccine: Call your doctor or go online to cdc.gov/flu and enter your zip code in “Flu Vaccine Finder” on the right.

Other steps: Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. Avoid touching your face and eyes. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough. Stay home from work and school if you are sick. Stay away from those who are ill.

Source: Whatcom County Health Department

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