By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer
One more flu death has been confirmed in Snohomish County and another death is being investigated as flu-related in what is shaping up to be the most severe influenza season since the swine flu outbreak of 2009.
The most recent death was an Everett woman in her 70s who died on Jan. 14, Snohomish Health District officials said Friday. There have been a total of five confirmed flu-related deaths in Snohomish County this season.
No details are being released in the case being investigated as flu-related.
The previous confirmed flu-related deaths were of a Stanwood man in his 90s, a Bothell woman in her 40s and two women in their 80s, one from Everett and one from Edmonds.
In addition, 71 people have been hospitalized for flu this season.
“We’re not at the end of the current flu season,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for the Snohomish Health District.
In terms of both local deaths and hospitalizations, this year is comparable to the 2009 swine flu, although the flu strains circulating during the two years hit two very different age groups, Goldbaum said.
From September through December of 2009, 100 people were hospitalized and there were six deaths.
Swine flu tended to cause the most serious illness and deaths among people ages 35 to 40, while this year’s flu is most severe among people 65 and up.
There’s also been a higher-than-usual number of flu outbreaks this year in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Nine facilities have reported outbreaks of flu compared with two last year.
Statewide, there have been 17 confirmed deaths from the flu, 15 of whom have been age 65 or older.
Although influenza is hitting adults 65 and older the hardest this year, no age group is immune from the disease. Nationally, 37 children have died so far this flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A high percentage of patients coming to walk-in clinics have influenza-like symptoms, said Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, who tracks influenza issues at The Everett Clinic.
Flu seasons generally last 10 to 16 weeks, and this is the ninth week of flu season. “I think we’re right at the peak or maybe just over the top of the flu season,” Tu said.
Although many viruses sicken people during the winter, the signature symptoms of flu include high fever, sore throat, extreme fatigue and respiratory problems.
Health officials continue to urge the public to take the steps that can help slow the spread of the highly infectious virus, including frequent hand washing, coughing into your elbow and staying home from work or school if you feel ill.
Flu vaccine is still generally available at local pharmacies and clinics, although stocks are beginning to wane. The shot is recommended for anyone 6 months of age or older.
The Snohomish Health District will provide up to 300 free flu shots to uninsured adults during an event scheduled from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Comcast Skate Arena, 2000 Hewitt Ave. in Everett.
Free flu shots
The Snohomish Health District will provide free flu shots to uninsured adults from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Comcast Skate Arena, 2000 Hewitt Ave. in Everett. The clinic is sponsored by the South Everett-Mukilteo Rotary Club. Adult whooping cough shots also will be available.
When to seek medical help
Generally healthy people with influenza usually can be cared for at home. But doctors say these are some of the symptoms that indicate someone should be checked out at a clinic:
- Coughing up blood.
- Fever lasting more than four days.
- Children who become confused, unresponsive or have difficulty keeping fluids down.
- Flu-like symptoms, which include high fever, sore throat, body aches and fatigue, are cause for special concern in children under age 2; adults older than 65; and those with diseases that can complicate the flu, such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma.