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Washington’s flu hospitalizations highest in 10 years

Nov. 25, 2022 Updated Fri., Nov. 25, 2022 at 10:04 p.m.

Tools to prepare flu shots sit at a drive-thru clinic at the E. Carlyle Smith Jr. Health Center at Grand Prairie, Texas, on Oct. 14.  (Liesbeth Powers/Dallas Morning News)
Tools to prepare flu shots sit at a drive-thru clinic at the E. Carlyle Smith Jr. Health Center at Grand Prairie, Texas, on Oct. 14. (Liesbeth Powers/Dallas Morning News)
By Nika Bartoo-Smith (Vancouver, Wash.) Columbian

The Washington State Department of Health has reported a rapid rise of flu cases across the state, following nationwide trends. Flu hospitalizations are at the highest rates seen in 10 years at this point in the year, according to a news release.

In Washington, there have been four flu-related deaths since Nov. 12, according to the state Department of Health data.

Along with the flu, hospitals across Clark County are seeing an influx of other respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. Hospital and intensive care beds are near capacity.

“Our state’s pediatric health care system is overloaded with extremely high numbers of children with respiratory infections,” Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, chief science officer for Washington state Department of Health, said in a news release.

“Families urgently need to do everything they can to keep everyone healthy and avoid the need for health care, and flu vaccination is one of the most important prevention tools.”

The most common flu strain seen so far is influenza A, known as H3N2. This strain typically causes more severe disease, though all flu vaccines currently available provide protection against it, according to the Department of Health.

Free COVID-19 home test kits

The Washington state Department of Health will continue to provide free at-home COVID-19 tests to residents through at least the end of 2022. Washingtonians can order up to 10 free tests per month through the “Say Yes! COVID Test” program at sayyescovidhometest.org. The kits are then delivered to the requester’s home or work address, free of charge. For more information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, visit doh.wa.gov/emergencies/covid-19.

“Flu activity is increasing in the region, and it is critical to get vaccinated as soon as possible to be protected,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, director of Clark County Public Health. “It can take up to two weeks to be fully protected after vaccination. Everyone 6 months and older are eligible for vaccination. Early research shows that this year’s influenza vaccine is effective against the types of influenza that are spreading in the community.”

Health officials are urging people to take steps to stay healthy and prevent the spread of the flu and other respiratory illnesses. The Department of Health recommends the following:

• Get the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 booster.

• Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer when soap is unavailable.

• Sneeze or cough into the crook of your arm.

• Avoid close contact with sick individuals.

• Consider wearing a mask.

• If you are sick, stay home.

The flu vaccine is available at most pharmacies, health care provider offices and clinics. The flu vaccine can be received on the same day as an updated COVID-19 booster, according to the Department of Health.

For more information on where to schedule a vaccine or booster, visit www.vaccines.gov. For more information on how to prevent the spread of the flu, visit KnockOutFlu.org.

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