Flu death toll in Snohomish County rises to 26

EVERETT — The number of people in Snohomish County to die from flu has now risen to 26, far exceeding the typical toll for an entire influenza season.

“In my 10 years, this is absolutely the worst flu season,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer at the Snohomish Health District.

“The 26 deaths we’ve got has hit an incredible new record and the season hasn’t ended,” he said.

Snohomish County has had the second highest number of deaths from flu in the state, exceeded only by Pierce County where 27 people have died. King County has reported 22 flu deaths. Statewide, 114 people have died from the flu, according to the state Department of Health.

Influenza began circulating widely just before Christmas and it often continues to spread at high rates through the end of February.

Careful counts on the number of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths began during the 2009-2010 flu season, the year of the H1N1 outbreak. The previous record number of local deaths from flu — 16 — occurred during the 2014-2015 flu season.

The eight most recent deaths included five people from Everett, two men in their late 60s; a woman in her late 40s; a man in his late 70s; and a man in his late 80s; as well as a woman in her late 80s from Lake Stevens; a woman in her late-80s from Lynnwood; and a man in his late 50s from Arlington.

All had health conditions that made them more susceptible to the flu.

The death of the Everett woman in her late 40s is the youngest death recorded in Snohomish County this flu season. Most of the deaths this year have been among those in their 70s and up.

It’s too soon to know why this year’s flu has been unusually deadly, particularly for older adults, Goldbaum said. There may be several contributing factors.

Flu began circulating a little earlier than usual, and typically about a third of seniors don’t get vaccinated, he said.

It’s still unknown whether the unavailability of flu mist kept some people, particularly children, from being vaccinated, he said. Once infected, children can easily spread the flu virus.

Flu mist, delivered by a squirt into the nostrils, is an alternative to the flu shot but it wasn’t available this flu season. Tests showed that the mist was ineffective in fighting off influenza viruses among children 2 to 17 years old during last year’s flu season. Federal health officials announced in June that the nasal spray flu vaccine should not be used to battle flu this year.

Local hospital emergency rooms and medical clinics are being hit hard during the continuing flu epidemic with high numbers of patients, Goldbaum said.

“The hospitals are at capacity,” Goldbaum said. Many emergency rooms have to put people in hallways waiting for beds become available.

On Monday, Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s emergency room treated 310 people.

“Please, before you jump into your car or dial 911, if you can, contact your own health care provider,” Goldbaum said. “It may be you can manage at home.”

In a five-day period ending Wednesday, 37 people were admitted to Providence for treatment of influenza-related illnesses. Since mid-December 251 people have been hospitalized there for influenza. Countywide, 319 people have been hospitalized for flu-related illnesses.

The Snohomish Health District’s website has advice on when to seek medical attention for the flu. The yearly reminders to help slow the spread of flu — frequent hand washing, covering your cough and staying home when ill — are especially important this year, Goldbaum said. Children and adults can still get the flu vaccine to help protect them against the illness.

The Everett Clinic is part of a statewide monitoring network on the flu. Last week 784 people were tested for flu, the most this season, and 374 tested positive.

More of the clinic’s employees have become sickened with flu this year than in previous years despite being vaccinated, said Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, who tracks influenza issues for the group of local medical clinics.

“Have we seen the peak of influenza — the answer is no,” Tu said.

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

Talk to us

More in Local News

Students use a modular skills trainer during class Thursday morning at Edmonds Community College on April 29, 2021.
(Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Nurses Week, from May 6- 12, honors the nation’s caregivers

Local nursing students and faculty say they couldn’t let the pandemic get in the way of their goals.

Mae Tomita (left) celebrates with Richard Steele after picking up a spare in the first frame Wednesday afternoon at Strawberry Lanes in Marysville on May 5, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Plenty of spares, strikes on Lake Stevens woman’s 100th birthday

Mae Tomita bowls by muscle memory. She can’t see how many pins are left standing. Often, it’s zero.

Highland Simulant, a simulated lunar soil made by Off Planet Research, pours from a researcher's hands. Photo credit: Off Planet Research
Space company makes a soft landing at the Port of Everett

Off Planet Research creates simulated lunar soils here, so that moon landers can touch down gently.

Arlington police arrest robber accused of three armed heists

The 27-year-old man is under investigation for robbing a gas station, a hotel and a Little Caesars Pizza.

Mill Creek man sentenced for near-drowning of ex-girlfriend

William Pool III was first charged with attempted murder. He pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.

Breanna Schalamon take Joel Childs' orders Tuesday afternoon at Oxford Saloon in Snohomish on May 4, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Inslee orders two-week pause on counties sliding back phases

Snohomish County, and much of Washington, had braced for reversion to Phase 2 of reopening plan

Snohomish chiropractor accused of sexually touching patients

Six people reported Dr. Ken Parker touched them inappropriately. Some reports were years old. Some were new.

Nobody injured in fire at Everett hearing clinic

Firefighters extinguished a roof fire around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at 4027 Hoyt Ave.

Snohomish County Health District building on Rucker Avenue in Everett. (Sue Misao  / The Herald) 210427
Vaccinated seniors are largely missing COVID’s fourth wave

The high level of protection for seniors is proof that vaccines work, health experts say.

Most Read