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Health district warns of second flu wave after Spokane hospitalizations jump

FILE – Hanh To, a pharmacy student at WSU, prepares herself for a flu shot from MaryAnne Gellings, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, at the school's South Campus Facility, in Spokane. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE – Hanh To, a pharmacy student at WSU, prepares herself for a flu shot from MaryAnne Gellings, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, at the school's South Campus Facility, in Spokane. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

In case the warm weather had you fooled: flu season is not over.

Spokane County saw a wave of hospitalizations for influenza B in March. The B strain of flu typically dominates the end of flu seasons and can only infect humans, rather than the A strains, which infect humans and animals.

Sixty-three people in the county were hospitalized for flu B in March after a decline in February hospitalizations, according to the Spokane Regional Health District. In total, flu B was responsible for 72 percent of March flu hospitalizations, compared with about one-quarter last year.

That’s led the health district to warn a second wave of influenza B could be on the way.

“Illness associated with influenza B can be just as severe as illness associated with influenza A,” said the district’s health officer, Bob Lutz. “We also know influenza B tends to be more severe for younger children.”

The good news? Flu vaccines are nearly always more effective against B strains, and this year’s is no exception. The CDC estimated its effectiveness against influenza B at 42 percent. And vaccinated people who do get sick may have shorter and less serious illnesses than unvaccinated people. It’s not too late to get a flu shot for this year.

In total, 571 people in the county have been hospitalized for flu this season, and 37 have died.


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