3 flu deaths in Snohomish County increase concern

Three Snohomish County women have died from the flu, the highest number of confirmed influenza deaths for any county in Washington this season.

The deaths all occurred in late December. A Bothell woman in her 40s and two women in their 80s, one from Everett and one from Edmonds, died in area hospitals, Snohomish Health District officials said Monday.

All three women had underlying medical conditions, such as pneumonia and other breathing problems, health officials said.

“To have three deaths at this stage in the influenza season is pretty unusual,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for the Snohomish Health District.

In addition, the total number of hospitalized flu cases reported this flu season — 52 — exceeds the number of people hospitalized with flu last two flu seasons combined, he said.

During the 2010-11 influenza season, 16 people were hospitalized in Snohomish County with influenza, and there was one death reported from flu, Goldbaum said.

And 39 people were hospitalized and two died during the 2011-12 flu season.

“The numbers are concerning,” Goldbaum said. “We are seeing more serious cases, as measured by the number of people hospitalized and deaths, than we have in previous years.”

Immunization is recommended for anyone over the age of 6 months. There are still ample supplies of shots at local clinics. The shot also is available at area pharmacies.

Goldbaum urged people who have not gotten immunized to consider doing so.

“We expect to see more people hospitalized,” Goldbaum said. “There may well be additional deaths due to influenza. There could be a lot more kids out of school and parents home from work.”

The Everett Clinic has seen a significant increase in the number of patients who have flu symptoms. The number of patients testing positive for flu through rapid tests, which can be administered at the clinic, began to increase significantly in mid-December, said April Zepeda, clinic spokeswoman.

Clinic doctors expect the actual peak of flu season is still several weeks off, she said.

Swedish/Edmonds is just one area hospital that has seen its numbers of flu patients climb.

Thirteen patients were admitted to the hospital from Dec. 24 to Jan. 6 for flu symptoms, and 18 were treated in its emergency department, said Steve Kaiser, hospital spokesman.

Three other flu deaths have been reported this season to the state Department of Health: A Pierce County boy who was 12 or younger and two adults in King County, a man in his 80s and a woman in her 70s, according to Donn Moyer, a spokesman for the state health agency.

Federal health officials have been warning since the onset of flu season that this could be an unusually bad year for flu.

No infants in Snohomish County have died from influenza this flu season. However, influenza has killed 18 infants nationally, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

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