The Herald reports on flu season in Washington State. This season health officials have seen a dramatic increase in people sickened by flu, signaling the onset of influenza season. This season has led to four deaths and 40% of a statewide flu monitoring network have tested positive for influenza.
Health officials say they’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of people sickened by flu in the past week, signaling the onset of influenza season.
Ten people were hospitalized at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett last weekend for flu symptoms, said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for the Snohomish Health District.
The public health agency has sent an alert to area physicians telling them of the recent surge.
Statewide, four people have died after contracting influenza, according to the state Department of Health. None were from Snohomish County.
At The Everett Clinic, which is part of a statewide flu-monitoring network, 40 percent of 395 patients tested positive for influenza in the seven-day period ending Sunday, according to Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, who monitors influenza trends for the clinics.
“We are seeing the onset of the yearly influenza epidemic,” he said.
Goldbaum said that tests results showing 40 percent of patients testing positive for flu is quite high for the early part of influenza season. Usually it begins with about 10 percent.
Flu symptoms include sudden fever, cough, sore throat, headache, body aches and fatigue.
Flu usually doesn’t trigger severe problems in healthy people, though it can make them feel miserable for days.
Infants with high fevers, or anyone with flu symptoms experiencing shortness of breath, feelings of confusion or dizziness should seek medical attention, Tu said.
Influenza can be far more troublesome for people with chronic health problems, such as heart disease or diabetes.
It also can be dangerous for children younger than 2 and adults 65 and older.
A University of Washington researcher found that both age groups were hospitalized from influenza complications at about the same rates, Tu said.
It’s especially important for infants and older adults to get vaccinated, as well as their families and those they are in frequent contact with, he said.
Flu shots are recommended for children after 6 months of age.
There’s plenty of flu vaccine still available at local pharmacies and medical clinics. However, flu mist, an alternative to shots, isn’t available this year because it hasn’t been as effective in protecting people from the flu for the past several years.
Flu season typically continues for 12 to 16 weeks. “We’re strongly encouraging people who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated,” Tu said.
Frequent hand washing, covering your cough and staying home when you’re ill also are important in helping stop the spread of influenza, Goldbaum said.