The Everett Herald reports on Snohomish County's influenza outbreak, killing a fifth person and crowding hospitals.
Dr. Yuan-Po Tu of The Everett Clinic contributes:
EVERETT — Influenza has killed five people in Snohomish County, part of an outbreak that has sent 50 people to local hospitals.
Four of the five deaths occurred in a one-week period between Dec. 21 and Dec. 28. All had health conditions that made them more susceptible to the flu, said Heather Thomas, a Snohomish Health District spokeswoman.
The season’s first flu death, in early December, was a man in his late 80s from Bothell.
The other four deaths, which occurred during the last week of December, were three women, one in her early 70s from Everett, the others in their 80s and 90s from unincorporated Snohomish County; and a man in his late 40s from Edmonds.
Four long-term care facilities in the county have reported outbreaks of influenza and one school has reported more than 10 percent absenteeism rates because of influenza-like symptoms, according to the health district.
Last year was an unusually deadly year for influenza in Snohomish County, when 45 deaths were recorded.
The onset of this year’s flu season is a little later than usual, said Dr. Mark Beatty, health officer for the Snohomish Health District. “Everybody agrees that it’s picked up in the last week,” he said.
It’s still too early to know how severe a flu season it will be, he said.
It’s not too late to get the flu vaccine, even though the number of flu cases has begun to climb, Beatty said.
At The Everett Clinic, the number of patients testing positive for flu has steadily increased over the past three weeks, Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, who monitors influenza issues for the clinics, said in an email.
This might indicate that the number of influenza cases will continue to grow during the rest of this month, he said.
Statewide, 20 people have died so far from influenza.
Nationally, flu is reported as widespread in most states, including Washington, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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.
Symptoms start one to four days after the virus enters the body.
Most healthy adults might be able to infect other people beginning one day before symptoms begin and up to five to seven days after becoming sick, according to the federal health agency.
People can spread influenza virus to others up to six feet away by coughing or sneezing or talking. Children might spread the virus for longer than a week.
Health officials say patients should check with their clinic before going to a hospital emergency room for treatment of influenza.
The spread of flu can be stopped by steps such as coughing into a sleeve rather than your hand, frequent hand washing and staying home if you have flu symptoms.
See the article, "Flu outbreak in Snohomish County kills five; 50 hospitalized."