Flu Activity Continues to Rise in Spokane County; Vaccination is Best Protection
Spokane County adult is area’s first reported flu death; masking recommended for unvaccinated healthcare workers
SPOKANE, Wash. – Jan. 10, 2017 – Flu activity continues to rise in Spokane County and unfortunately it claimed the life of a Spokane County adult last week—the county’s first flu-related death this season. The vaccinated female was in her 100s and also suffered from underlying health conditions.
"Sadly, this is an example of how serious flu can be," said Dr. Sam Artzis, Spokane Regional Health District’s interim health officer. “Your best chance at protecting your loved ones, and yourself, from flu is to get a flu shot.”
This season, 82 individuals have been hospitalized for the flu in Spokane County. During the same period last year, there were nine hospitalizations. Statewide, Washington State Department of Health (DOH) reports 24 flu-related deaths this season.
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. The main type currently circulating in Spokane County is influenza A, which is covered in this year’s flu vaccine. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Extreme fatigue (very tired)
Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care. If an individual is potentially sick with the flu, it is important that, before they seek care, they first call their healthcare provider or an urgent care facility. Flu is very infectious and for the protection of both the sick individual and others in the provider’s office, calling in advance for advice and guidance is strongly encouraged. People should only utilize local emergency departments if they have emergency warning signs of flu sickness:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- High fever (greater than 104’)
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Certain people are at high risk of serious flu-related complications (including young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions). 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 healthcare provider about available options. Otherwise, when people have the flu, they should:
- Stay at home and rest.
- Drink plenty of water and other clear liquids to prevent fluid loss (dehydration).
- Avoid close contact with well people so they do not become sick.
A person can spread flu before they know they are sick and up to seven days after. To help decrease the spread of flu by unvaccinated health care workers, SRHD’s Board of Health passed a resolution in fall 2016 that encourages all healthcare facilities, particularly long term care facilities, to adopt policies that require all staff to either receive an annual influenza vaccination or wear a mask during the flu season. 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.
Last flu season in Spokane County, 225 people were hospitalized due to flu and, unfortunately, six residents’ deaths were attributed to flu-related illness. Statewide during last flu season, there were 68 laboratory-confirmed, influenza-related deaths.
For more information about influenza and vaccine visit cdc.gov/flu or srhd.org. Spokane Regional Health District’s web site also offers comprehensive, updated information about the 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.