EVERETT — Three more people have died from influenza-related causes in Snohomish County, with the total number of flu deaths now rising to 11.
That’s more than any other county in the state for the second week in a row.
However, the number of local hospitalizations for influenza-related illnesses has declined about 15 percent over the previous week, said Dr. Mark Beatty, health officer for the Snohomish Health District.
Health officials will have a better idea of the severity of this year’s flu season by the end of the month, he said.
“It’s still early in the flu season, but it’s not too late to get your flu shot,” Beatty said.
Statewide, 46 people have died from influenza-related illnesses.
The latest deaths in Snohomish County occurred in three men. Two were from Bothell, one in his mid-80s and one in his early 80s. The other, in his mid-90s, was from Stanwood.
The virus is now widespread in Washington, as it is nationally. A total of 124 people in the county have been hospitalized for treatment of flu-related problems.
Nine area long-term care facilities are reporting outbreaks.
“It’s rapidly increasing and not slowing down,” said Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, who monitors flu issues for The Everett Clinic. “We are definitely in the midst of an influenza outbreak.”
About 35 percent of patients with influenza-like symptoms are now testing positive for the flu, he said.
The clinic is part of a statewide network of medical groups that report the results of flu testing to the state Department of Health.
Although flu outbreaks occur annually, “the intensity is fairly high and continues to rise,” Tu said.
That likely will continue through the end of January and into February before it begins to peak, he said.
Tu said he expects more than 5,000 patients will have been treated at Everett Clinic walk-in clinics this week.
Flu isn’t the only virus that’s circulating. A lot of people have been hit with nausea and vomiting caused by norovirus, sometimes mistakenly called stomach flu, Tu said.
Flu symptoms typically start suddenly and include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, fatigue and in some cases vomiting and diarrhea.
Although the body aches and fever caused by the flu can make those sickened by it miserable, it generally can be treated at home by steps such as drinking fluids and taking over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Sometimes, an antiviral medication is prescribed, which can shorten the illness by a day or two.
Health officials say that people sickened by flu should check with their medical clinic before going to an emergency room.
Steps such as covering your cough and staying home when ill can help slow the spread of the disease, health officials say.
Last year was an unusually severe year for influenza in Snohomish County, with 45 influenza-related deaths.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.