Officials concerned about rising number of Idaho flu deaths

Submitted Photo The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has received five new reports in one week of Idahoans who died from an influenza-related illness, bringing the season total to 13 deaths.

Submitted Photo
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has received five new reports in one week of Idahoans who died from an influenza-related illness, bringing the season total to 13 deaths.

By Journal Staff

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says this year’s flu season is the worst the state has seen in seven years, which has public health officials concerned.

In total, 13 Idahoans have died from influenza-related illnesses so far this flu season. This is the most influenza-related deaths at this point in the season that Health and Welfare has seen during the same timeframe over the past seven seasons.

“Flu is widespread in Idaho and may be especially severe this season,” said Randi Pedersen, the state influenza surveillance coordinator, in a news release. “Unfortunately, this flu season is far from over. Influenza activity typically peaks in Idaho in January or early February. If you haven’t yet gotten the vaccine, it is not too late. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your family from this serious illness.”

Last year’s flu season was particularly severe. According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, there were 72 reported deaths from influenza-related illnesses. This number far exceeded the annual average of 23 deaths during each season from 2009-2010 through 2015-2016, the agency said.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that infects up to 20 percent of the U.S. population each year. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache and sometimes a cough and sore throat.

Though most people recover in a few days, some can develop serious complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu contributes to an estimated 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations across the country each year.

Those who are particularly at high risk are children under the age of 5, adults 65 years or older, pregnant women, as well as those with asthma, heart or lung diseases or a weakened immune system. Those who are at high risk should seek medical attention immediately if they develop flu symptoms.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said the predominant strain currently circulating in Idaho is influenza A(H3), but influenza A(H1N1) and influenza B have also been detected among the state’s residents.

Aside from getting a flu vaccination, state health officials are advising residents that the following everyday actions help stop the spread of influenza:

  • Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing to prevent infecting others.
  • Avoid people who appear to be sick.
  • Stay home from school or work if you are sick to avoid infecting others.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth until you have washed your hands.
  • Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat nutritious foods and take part in physical activity to stay healthy.

More information about influenza, visit www.cdc.gov/flu or http://flu.idaho.gov.