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

Spokane County adult is first reported flu death for eastern Washington, second death in state


 
Media Contact: Kim Papich 
kpapich@srhd.org
(509) 324-1539, c (509) 994-8968

SPOKANE, Wash. – Flu activity continues to increase in Spokane County, claiming the life of a Spokane County adult this week—eastern Washington’s first flu-related death this season. The male resident was in his 60s.

"Unfortunately, this is an example of how serious flu can be," said Dr. Bob Lutz, Spokane Regional Health District’s health officer. “Your best chance at protecting yourself and loved ones is to get a flu shot soon.”

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. Some people, such as those over the age of 65, young children, pregnant women, American Indian/Alaska Natives and those with certain health conditions, are at higher risk for serious flu complications.

One other flu-related death occurred in Washington state this season, in Pierce County, as reported by Washington State Department of Health. Twenty-four Spokane County residents have been hospitalized with flu this season, compared to nine admissions during the same period last year. Flu season in Spokane County typically peaks in February.

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

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

Flu vaccines are designed to protect against the most common flu viruses. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get immunized against flu. The vaccine promotes antibody protection within two weeks.  

Flu shots are available at numerous locations throughout Spokane County, including health care provider offices, local pharmacies and grocery stores.

Flu vaccine choices this year include:

  • Trivalent vaccine The traditional vaccine designed to protect against three different flu viruses—two A viruses and one B virus.
  • Quadrivalent vaccine These flu vaccines protect against four strains of influenza—two strains of influenza A and two strains of influenza B. Including a second strain of influenza B provides broader protection.
  • High-dose vaccines As people age, their immune systems weaken, which means the elderly benefit less than younger people from a standard flu shot. High-dose shots, approved for those ages 65 and over, include four times the usual level of immunity-producing proteins to provide more protection.
  • Intradermal and needle-free shots These shots are designed for needle-phobic adults ages 18 to 64. Intradermal shots have shorter needles that penetrate just skin, rather than traditional intramuscular shots. With a needle-free shot, a jet injector uses a high-pressure, narrow stream of fluid to penetrate the skin instead of a needle. Note that the nasal spray flu vaccine is no longer recommended due to a lack of proven effectiveness for preventing influenza.

Said Dr. Lutz, “For decades, we only had one type of flu vaccine. By giving people choices, we remove some of the barriers that prevent vaccination. Since some vaccines are intended for certain groups, talk to your provider or pharmacist about the vaccine that is best for you.”

Last flu season, 315 people were hospitalized due to flu in Spokane County and, unfortunately, 14 residents’ deaths were attributed to flu-related complications. CDC estimates that flu resulted in 9.2 million to 35.6 million U.S. infections since 2010. Its figures also show that from 2010-2014, annual influenza-associated deaths ranged from a low of 12,000 (during the 2011-2012 season) to a high of 56,000 (during 2012-2013).  

For more information about influenza and influenza vaccine visit cdc.gov/flu or srhd.org. 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.