The Snohomish Health District has reported that three residents of Snohomish County have died recently from the severe flu that is circulating throughout Western Washington. An Everett woman in her 80s, an Edmonds woman in her 80s and a Bothell woman in her 40s and died in late December in Snohomish County hospitals. All had underlying medical conditions.
"We may be facing the most severe flu season since 2009," said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for the Snohomish Health District. "I urge everyone over six months of age to get an annual flu shot. It's still the best weapon we have to fight the flu strains that are circulating this year. Wash your hands often, stay home if you are sick and cover your cough."
Snohomish County is well supplied with flu vaccine in providers' offices, as well as community clinics, pharmacies and the Snohomish Health District clinics. The Health District stocks about 1,000 doses of adult vaccine and 300 doses of children's vaccine. More is available as needed.
Goldbaum 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 this year. The three strains are H1N1A, H3N2A and B/Wisconsin. The dominant strain is H3N2, which can cause more serious illness. As of Jan. 2, a surveillance report from two area hospitals shows 52 people have been hospitalized with flu symptoms since Nov. 1 in Snohomish County. Last year at this time, there were four hospitalizations, while the year before, there were none reported.
During the 2010-11 influenza season, The Snohomish Health District received reports of 16 persons hospitalized with influenza, with one death reported due to influenza. During the 2011-12 season, 39 were hospitalized with two deaths. In Snohomish County this season to date, compared with each of the past two entire seasons, more people have been hospitalized for or died from influenza.
The Washington State Department of Health reported three deaths in December in King and Pierce counties. Lab-confirmed deaths are reportable, although many flu-related deaths may go unreported because they are not lab-confirmed or tested for influenza. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that up to 49,000 people could die from the flu this season.
Flu shots are especially important for people at high risk for complications from the flu, including young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and women who recently gave birth, and people with certain medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and neurologic conditions. You need a fresh flu vaccine every year; last year's vaccine won't work on the current circulating strains.