An elderly woman who died last week is the first flu-related death in Spokane County this season, health officials said Tuesday.
The woman was in her 100s and also suffered from underlying health conditions, the Spokane Regional Health District said. She had gotten a flu shot, however.
“Sadly, this is an example of how serious flu can be,” said Dr. Sam Artzis, the district’s interim health officer. “Your best chance at protecting your loved ones, and yourself, from flu is to get a flu shot.”
Flu activity continues to rise in Spokane County. This season, 82 people have been hospitalized for the flu in the county. During the same period last year, there were nine hospitalizations.
Statewide, the Washington State Department of Health reported 24 flu-related deaths this season.
Last flu season in Spokane County, 225 people were hospitalized and six deaths were attributed to flu-related illnesses. Statewide, there were 68 laboratory-confirmed, influenza-related deaths last season.
In North Idaho, 40 people have been hospitalized with flu-related illnesses so far this season, the Panhandle Health District said. The patients range in age from 2 to 100, and the flu incident rate is 36.7 per 100,000 people, a district official said.
No flu-related deaths have been reported to Panhandle Health District this season.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. Flu vaccines are designed to protect against the main flu viruses that research suggests will be the most common during the upcoming season.
The main type currently circulating in Spokane County is influenza A, which is covered in this year’s flu vaccine. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:
Fever or feeling feverish/chills
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Extreme fatigue (very tired)
Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care. If an individual is potentially sick with the flu, it is important that, before they seek care, they first call their health care provider or an urgent care facility, health officials said.
Flu is very infectious, and for the protection of both the sick individual and others in the provider’s office, calling in advance for advice and guidance is strongly encouraged, officials said. People should only utilize local emergency departments if they have emergency warning signs of flu sickness:
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
High fever (greater than 104 degrees)
Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
Severe or persistent vomiting
Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Certain people are at high risk of serious flu-related complications, including young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions.
If an individual is 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 available options. Otherwise, when people have the flu, they should:
Stay at home and rest.
Drink plenty of water and other clear liquids to prevent fluid loss (dehydration).
Avoid close contact with well people so they do not become sick.