Flu season is underway in Spokane County, with reports of at least 43 people hospitalized for flu-related symptoms.
“It started out quietly, but we’ve seen a recent spike,” said Kim Papich, spokeswoman for the Spokane Regional Health District. “I’m surprised that we haven’t had a death yet.”
Nine influenza deaths were reported in Washington through Dec. 24, according to the state Department of Health. Additional deaths have been reported in King and Pierce counties, primarily in patients in their 60s through their 90s. The most recent deaths will be included in the next statewide flu report, which comes out Friday.
This season’s flu is the same type of strain that struck in 2014-15, when there were 157 flu-related deaths across the state, said Paul Throne, a state Department of Health spokesman.
The last flu death in Spokane County was reported in August, which is considered part of the 2015-2016 flu season, Papich said.
Flu typically strikes first in the more populous areas of Western Washington and works its way to the eastern part of the state, Papich said.
“There’s a lot of vicious stuff going around, which is common for this time of year,” she said.
The fast-acting flu virus spreads in droplets of moisture from sneezes, coughs and even talking. Flu has a relatively short incubation period of one to four days. Adults can infect others one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick. Kids can spread the virus for 10 or more days, according to the state Health Department.
The risk of flu-related complications is greatest for children 4 and younger, the elderly, women who are pregnant and people with chronic diseases or compromised immune systems.
Flu season typically peaks between January and March, so there’s still time to get a flu shot, Papich said. It takes the body about two weeks to develop immunity after a flu vaccination.
While there is no cure for flu, getting antiviral medication within 72 hours of the onset of symptoms helps reduce the duration and severity of the flu.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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