North Sound News

Flu now widespread in Washington state

The flu is now considered to be widespread in Washington state.

The Center for Disease Control says the number of lab tests positive for the flu increased 25 percent in the last three weeks.

During the current flu season, there have been four flu deaths in Pierce County, five in King County and five in Snohomish County.

But local health officials say by the end of March, that number could be much higher.

“In a more severe season, closer to 400 people will die here in King County from influenza,” says Jeff Duchin, health officer with Public Health Seattle & King County. “The number reported to us is just the tip of the iceberg."

Duchin says this year's dominating flu strain "H3N2" is expected be more severe for the most vulnerable, including older adults.

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Officials at the Snohomish County Health District are concerned that there have been that many deaths before the peak point in the season.

Fifty other people sickened by the flu in Snohomish County were hospitalized.

“We are seeing an increase in hospitalizations and flu cases reported by clinics, but it’s not too late to get your flu shots,” said Dr. Mark Beatty, health officer for the Snohomish Health District, in a news release. “It’s also a good reminder for people to wash hands frequently, cover coughs, and most importantly -- stay home if you’re sick.”

Most of the people who have died from the flu were older than 70 and had underlying health conditions.

According to the Everett Herald, the number of patients who tested positive for flu at the Everett Clinic has steadily gone up over the last three weeks.

Health officials there say that’s a sign that influenza cases will continue to increase for the rest of the month, and with the flu season peaking between now and March, getting a shot will not only protect yourself but also those around you.

If you haven't gotten your flu shot, it's not too late.

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