EVERETT — Although Snohomish County continues to be hit hard by influenza, the peak of its spread might have passed.
This despite medical clinics still jammed with sickened patients and an additional four local flu-related deaths. That brings the season’s flu death total to 23 — the most of any county in Washington. Spokane County has reported 18 flu deaths, and King County 10.
The most recent local flu deaths were two women from Everett, one in her mid-90s and one in her early 70s; a woman in her early 60s from Edmonds; and a man in his early 50s from Everett.
All had other health problems that made them more vulnerable to influenza.
Children, pregnant women, adults 65 and older and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease, are at highest risk for health complications from flu.
Overall, 205 people have been hospitalized by flu in Snohomish County.
This year’s 23 flu deaths is among the most deadly in Snohomish County’s recent history, exceeded only by the 31 people who died at this point in flu season last year.
“We’re not out the woods yet,” said Heather Thomas, a Snohomish Health District spokeswoman. “Make sure when you are sick you’re staying home.”
People should be fever-free for at least 24 hours before returning to school or work, she said.
Some temporary shortages of Tamiflu are being reported. The prescription can reduce the number of days people have flu symptoms. Most of the shortages are resolved within hours, Thomas said.
“It just indicates how widespread this flu season is getting,” she said.
Statewide, 109 people have died from the flu, according to state Department of Health data. Eighty-two of those deaths were among those 65 and older. One child 4 or younger has died. No further information was available on the case.
“The reason I think we’ve hit the peak of flu season is the number of positive flu tests seems to have peaked and the number of urgent care visits, although still very high, has plateaued,” said Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, who tracks influenza issues for The Everett Clinic.
The clinic is part of a statewide network of health care organizations that report on the spread of flu to the state Department of Health.
In addition, there’s been an increase in type B flu, “which probably means we’re on the back half of the flu season,” Tu said
Type B typically hits early in influenza season and then comes back late in the season, he said. About half of the patients who tested positive for influenza last week at the clinic had type B.
Flu will continue to be present in the community at high levels, but is expected to gradually taper over the next four to six weeks, Tu said.
That doesn’t mean patients should let down their vigilance against the virus, even if they’ve had the flu, Tu said. Influenza tends to damage the lining of the lungs of the bronchial tubes, putting them at risk for pneumonia even weeks later.
Signs this might be occurring are new fevers, difficulty breathing, chest pain and confusion, he 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.
However, not everyone with the flu will have a fever.
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.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; email@example.com.
Tips on when flu can be treated at home and when to seek medical care are available on the Snohomish Health District website: www.snohd.org/flu.