FROM THE SPOKANE HEALTH DISTRICT: Flu activity continues to escalate in Spokane County and unfortunately it claimed the life of a Spokane County adult this week—eastern Washington's first flu-related death this season. The female resident was in her 80s.
"Our hearts go out to her loved ones for their loss," said SRHD health officer Dr. Joel McCullough. "Sadly, this is an example of how serious flu can be. With flu season picking up, it's important to remember that we can protect ourselves and our loved ones with a flu shot."
Although everyone six months and older should get a flu shot each year, flu shots are especially important for people at high risk for complications from the flu. Those at high risk include people 65 and older, young kids, pregnant and postpartum women, and people with certain medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and neurologic conditions.
The Washington State Department of Health reports six other laboratory-confirmed flu-related deaths this season—all on the west side of the state. Thirty-five Spokane County residents have been hospitalized with flu compared to four admissions during the same period last year. While Spokane's first lab-confirmed flu case occurred in October, most of the time, local flu activity peaks in February or later.
It takes about two weeks after being vaccinated to be fully protected, but with several weeks still left in the season there is still time to get a flu shot. Dr. McCullough noted that this year's vaccines appear to be well-matched for the two strains of influenza A and one strain of influenza B that are circulating. The dominant strain is H3N2, which can cause more serious illness.
Flu shots are available at the SRHD Public Health Clinic, (509) 324-1600, as well as numerous other locations throughout Spokane County including health care provider offices, local pharmacies and grocery stores.
Flu viruses spread when people with flu generate droplets from their mouths or noses while coughing, sneezing or talking. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby.
People can also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose. A person can spread flu before they know they're sick and up to seven days after. Children can spread it for even longer. Again, the best way to avoid getting or spreading the flu is to get a flu shot, and also wash your hands, cover your cough and stay home if you're sick.
If you're already sick with the flu, antiviral medications can lessen symptoms and help prevent serious complications. They work best when started quickly; people should ask their health care provider about their best option. It's also important to stay away from others for at least 24 hours after you have no fever without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
For more information about influenza and influenza vaccine visit srhd.org/flu or www.cdc.gov/flu. Spokane Regional Health District's website also offers comprehensive, updated information about the health district and its triumphs in making Spokane a safer and healthier community. Become a fan of SRHD on Facebook to receive local safety and wellness tips. You can also follow us on Twitter @spokanehealth.