State health officials say 23 people have died from the flu so far this season in Washington state.
Of those 23, three were in Whatcom County. Four of the deaths were in Pierce County, five were in Snohomish County and six were in Spokane County.
The three people in Whatcom County were a woman in her 60s who died in November, a man in his 60s who died in December and a man in his 80s who died in January 2018.
Most of the others who have died from the flu were older than 70 and had underlying health conditions, health officials said.
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The flu has jumped across the country, with 36 states now reporting widespread flu activity.
In Whatcom County, there have been elevated levels of the flu at long-term care facilities, as well as an increase in flu tests from Dec. 10 through Dec. 23, according to Melissa Morin, a spokeswoman for the Whatcom County Health Department.
“In those two weeks, we’ve seen some upticks. Obviously that doesn’t capture all of the people with the flu, but when we see the tests increase we assume there’s an overall uptick in the community,” Morin said Thursday.
During that same time period, there were at least four lab-confirmed flu-related hospitalizations, and 28 positive Influenza A and Influenza B tests, according to local health department data.
Local health officials also reported that emergency room visits for respiratory complaints or flu-like illnesses were slightly higher those two weeks.
School absenteeism rates have remained steady, Morin said.
Health officials say the annual flu vaccination is the best method of prevention against illness. Morin said there is still time to get vaccinated, and people should contact their health care provider or pharmacy to get the shot. To find a nearby location to get a flu shot, go to vaccinefinder.org.
To prevent the flu from spreading, wash your hands well, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and stay home from school or work when you’re sick.
Officials say the shot can provide at least some protection and can help protect the most vulnerable populations who are at a higher risk from the flu.
Morin said she also wants people who get the flu that have any immune system problems or other chronic medical conditions or are pregnant, to call their health care provider right away.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Flu-related deaths in Washington state
▪ Chelan County: 1
▪ King County: 2
▪ Kitsap County: 2
▪ Pierce County: 4
▪ Snohomish County: 5
▪ Spokane County: 6
▪ Whatcom County: 3