Flu Activity Continues to Rise in Spokane County, Vaccination is Best Protection

Spokane County adult is second reported flu death for eastern Washington

For more information, contact Kim Papich, SRHD Public Information Officer (509) 324-1539 or

SPOKANE, Wash. – Dec. 31, 2014 – Flu activity continues to escalate in Spokane County and unfortunately it claimed the life of a Spokane County adult this week—eastern Washington’s second flu-related death this season. The male resident was in his 60s.

"Sadly, this is an example of how serious flu can be," said Dr. Joel McCullough, Spokane Regional Health District’s health officer. “Your best chance at protecting your loved ones, and yourself, from flu is to get a flu shot.”
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. Flu vaccines are designed to protect against the main flu viruses that research suggests will be the most common during the upcoming season. Three kinds of flu viruses commonly circulate among people today: influenza A (H1N1) viruses, influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and influenza B viruses.
According to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), so far this year, the dominant flu virus has been H3N2, and of the tested samples, about half have drifted slightly away from the vaccine formula. This is the same trend seen nationally. Said Dr. McCullough, “Although there’s been a drift this year, a flu shot is still the best defense against flu.”
DOH reports seven other laboratory-confirmed flu-related deaths this season—six on the west side of the state, the other in Adams County. Fifty-four Spokane County residents have been hospitalized with flu compared to 65 admissions during the same period last year. Flu season in Spokane County does not typically peak until February.
Last flu season, 183 people were hospitalized due to flu in Spokane County and, unfortunately, eight residents’ deaths were attributed to flu-related illness. In the United States, over a recent 30-year period, the CDC reports that the flu was linked to thousands of deaths each year — ranging from 3,000 to 49,000.
Flu vaccine promotes antibody protection within two weeks. Flu vaccine choices this year include:

  • Quadrivalent vaccine This flu vaccine protects against four strains of influenza—two stains of influenza A and two strains of influenza B. Including a second strain of influenza B provides broader protection.
  • Trivalent vaccine The traditional vaccine designed to protect against three different flu viruses—two A viruses and one B virus.
  • Nasal spray vaccine This quadrivalent flu vaccine is sprayed into the nose and is approved for use in healthy, non-pregnant persons ages 2 through 49.
  • Egg-free vaccines Flu vaccines are traditionally cultured in eggs, but now, this trivalent vaccine made from viruses grown in animal cells is available.
  • High-dose vaccines As people age, their immune systems weaken, which means the elderly get less protection from a standard flu shot than do younger people. High-dose trivalent shots, approved for those ages 65 and over, include four times the usual level of immunity-producing proteins to provide more protection.
  • Intradermal shots These trivalent shots are designed for needle-phobic adults ages 18 to 64—they have shorter needles that penetrate just the skin, rather than traditional intramuscular shots.

Said Dr. McCullough, “For decades, we only had one type of flu vaccine. By giving people choices, the barriers that prevent some of them from getting vaccinated are removed. Since some vaccines are intended for certain groups, talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about the vaccine that is best for you.”
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.
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Extreme fatigue (very tired)

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. A person can spread flu before they know they’re sick and up to seven days after. Children can spread it for even longer. Again, the best way to avoid getting or spreading the flu is to get a flu shot, and also washing hands, covering coughs and staying home if sick.
If an individual is already sick with the flu, antiviral medications can lessen symptoms and help prevent serious complications. They work best when started quickly; people should ask their health care provider about available options. It’s also important to stay away from others for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
For more information about influenza and influenza vaccine visit or Spokane Regional Health District’s web site also offers comprehensive, updated information about Spokane Regional Health District and its triumphs in making Spokane a safer and healthier community. Become a fan of SRHD on Facebook to receive local safety and wellness tips. You can also follow us on Twitter @spokanehealth.