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Flu deaths in Washington state climb to 76, one in Whatcom County

Health officials recommended that people get a flu shot as protection against the illness.
Health officials recommended that people get a flu shot as protection against the illness. AP

The number of deaths caused by the flu in Washington has gone up to 76 as the flu remained at epidemic levels in the state, according to information released Friday.

One of those deaths occurred in Whatcom County, which also has seen an early flu season that hit hard.

The deaths were as of Jan. 14. Most who died were 65 years and older, health officials said.

There were 165 confirmed cases in Whatcom County for the week ending Jan. 14, up from 109 the previous week, according to the Whatcom County flu report.

Statewide, the number of confirmed cases was 503 – up from 479 the previous week.

“It hasn’t gone down. We are seeing ongoing high numbers, so there’s no evidence we have peaked yet,” said Greg Stern, Whatcom County’s health officer.

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

Illness continued to strain hospitals and keep students out of school.

A total of 38 schools in Whatcom County, out of 54 reporting, had absenteeism rates of more than 10 percent on at least one day. That was up from 11 schools the previous week.

Health officials recommended that people get a flu shot as protection against the illness, which was on the rise nationally and also remained high in British Columbia.

People also are being asked to avoid going to the hospital emergency room – gridlock has been reported in some parts of the state.

“They spend many more hours waiting because the ERs are backed up, too,” Stern said. “People should go to the ER if they need to, but not out of convenience.”

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

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