EVERETT — Influenza has killed four people in the past week in Snohomish County — the first local deaths of this influenza season.
The deaths included a man and woman from Arlington, both in their 80s; a woman in her early 50s from Everett; and another woman in her late 80s whose hometown was not immediately available, Heather Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Snohomish Health District said Thursday.
All had underlying health conditions that make people more vulnerable to flu.
Meanwhile, local hospitals are seeing a surge in influenza cases, with the number of patients hospitalized with flu doubling each week since early December, Thomas said.
“Last week 40 people were hospitalized,” she said. “We’re expecting it to be 80 to 90 next week.”
Hospital emergency rooms are jammed. Patients with fevers and flu-like symptoms may also seek medical care at walk-in and urgent care clinics, Thomas said.
“We’re at the very beginning of flu season,” Thomas said. “We’ve got a long way to go. It’s important that people take this seriously.”
Flu vaccine is still available locally at pharmacies and medical clinics for those who haven’t yet gotten the flu shot.
Flu shots are recommended for adults, teens and children beginning at 6 months of age.
Flu symptoms include sudden fever, cough, sore throat, headache, body aches and fatigue.
If people are sick with flu symptoms, it’s important that they stay home to prevent its spread, Thomas said. Children and adults should be fever-free for at least 24 hours before resuming daily activities.
That’s especially important as people head back to work and school next week, where flu can easily spread, she said.
At The Everett Clinic, 289 patients tested positive for influenza last week, according to Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, a clinic physician who monitors influenza issues. Roughly half of patients with flu symptoms tested positive for the virus.
Flu usually doesn’t trigger severe problems in healthy people, though it can make them feel miserable for days.
Doctors say infants with high fevers, or anyone with flu symptoms experiencing shortness of breath, feelings of confusion or dizziness, should seek medical attention.
Influenza can be far more troublesome for people with chronic health problems, such as heart disease or diabetes. It also can be dangerous for children younger than 2 and adults 65 and older.
Frequent hand washing, covering your cough and staying home when you’re ill also are important in helping stop the spread of influenza, health officials say.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.