EVERETT — The number of flu-related deaths in Snohomish County continues to climb, with eight additional fatalities bringing the season’s total to 19.
This marks the third straight week Snohomish County has led the state in flu deaths. Spokane County is now second with 15, followed by King County, with nine.
Statewide, 86 people have died from the flu, most of whom were 65 or older. One child no older than 4 has died. The child’s exact age was not reported.
The latest local flu deaths included two people from Mountlake Terrace, a woman in her early 80s and a man in his mid-90s. Two people from Marysville also succumbed, a woman in her early 70s and a man in his mid-50. Two people from Bothell died, a woman in her late 50s and a man in his late 80s. The other deaths were a man in his mid-80s from Stanwood and a woman in her late 80s from unincorporated east Snohomish County.
All but one had pre-existing health conditions that made them more susceptible to the flu, said Heather Thomas, a Snohomish Health District spokeswoman.
The total number of people hospitalized for flu — 170 — continues to climb, up from the 124 hospitalizations reported last week.
“It further points out we’re still in the peak of flu season,” Thomas said. “We typically see it from January through March.”
It’s important to remember if you’re not feeling well to stay home, she said. People have the option of using their computers and smartphones for virtual appointments with their health care providers.
The number of hospitalizations and deaths show that flu is continuing its rapid spread, said Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, who monitors influenza issues for The Everett Clinic.
The clinic is part of a statewide system of reporting patients testing positive for flu.
The number of cases is expected to continue to grow rapidly until late this month or early February, he said.
Once flu hits the annual highest peak in its spread, “you have four to eight weeks where there’s still increased activity,” he said.
What’s unusual this year is nearly every state is experiencing essentially the peak of the season at the same time — “something I’ve never seen in the 20 years I’ve been monitoring this,” 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.
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.
On Friday, the state Department of Health said that with flu widespread people should check in with their health care provider before going to an emergency room for treatment.
In most cases, people who are sick should stay home to avoid contact with others. Most people with the flu have mild or moderate illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs, the state health agency advised.
However, some people are at higher risk of flu complications and should call their health care provider for advice.
They include: children younger than 5, especially those younger than 2; adults 65 and older, pregnant women and women up to two weeks after their delivery, nursing home patients, and American Indians.
Signs that infants need immediate medical care include: being unable to eat, trouble breathing, no tears when crying and significantly fewer wet diapers than usual.
In adults: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, and symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
Even with peak flu season approaching, it’s not too late get a flu shot, health officials advise. It’s recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older.
Other steps that can help stop the spread of flu include washing your hands frequently, covering your cough and staying away from people who are ill since it’s possible to spread flu before you know you have it, according to state health officials.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.