EVERETT — Trees are budding and so are flu cases.
“It’s still packing a nasty punch,” said Heather Thomas, Snohomish Health District spokeswoman.
At least nine people have died from influenza in Snohomish County this flu season and 113 were hospitalized. During the 2018-19 season, there were 26 flu-related deaths in the county and 362 people were hospitalized.
“The good news is the number of flu deaths are down this year, so that’s promising,” Thomas said. All so far were senior adults with underlying health conditions.
The bad news: “The peak of flu season can go through April, so we still have quite a bit of peak flu season ahead of us,” Thomas said.
This year, the other virus — coronavirus — has grabbed most of the attention, but the flu virus has taken the largest toll in the United States.
Fifteen schools in the county reported greater than 10% absenteeism due to influenza-like illness this season. Six long-term care facilities reported an outbreak.
New cases peaked in December, with influenza B as the predominant strain. There are two main strains, A and B. Typically, influenza A strikes first.
“It has shifted to influenza A,” Thomas said. Two of the latest four deaths in the county were from the A strain.
There were 270 confirmed cases of the flu in the county in the week ending Feb. 15, according to the latest figures available. Of these, 178 were influenza A and 92 were the B strain.
In Washington state, 70 people have died this season from the flu, including six children.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that hospitalizations are similar to recent seasons, but rates among children and young adults are higher.
Nationwide, there have been 16,000 flu deaths this season, according to the CDC, with about 29 million flu illnesses and 280,000 hospitalizations reported.
According to the CDC, the flu vaccine effectiveness reduces doctor visits for illness by 45% overall and 55% in children.
“It is not too late to get a flu shot,” Thomas said.