36 deaths in Pierce County have been reported due to widespread cases of influenza thus far.
“Of those deaths, 26 occurred in January, which is more than the total of each of the preceding three flu seasons,” said Matthew Rollosson, Nurse Epidemiologist with the Tacoma- Pierce County Health Department.
Washington state as a whole has experienced more deaths due to the virus than any year in the past decade. According to Rollosson, “Influenza A H3N2 has been the predominant virus circulating this season. Historically, H3N2 is associated with greater morbidity and mortality than H1N1”.
“People get complacent and think they are healthy and they can handle it,” said Julie Graham, Communications Coordinator for Washington State Department of Health. It can make people who are healthy ill and those who have an underlying health condition are put at higher risk for complications.
Those with a higher risk of getting influenza are young children, adults over 65-years-old and pregnant women. Pre-existing conditions such as chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes and obesity can cause further flu related health problems that require hospitalization.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting the influenza vaccine each year. The center says vaccine helps reduce the length and severity of the illness. The vaccine was 48 percent effective with the strain of this year’s influenza.
Graham said the 48 percent means the vaccine is a “good match” with this year’s strain.
The symptoms to watch out for are those that come with a fever, which includes headaches, body aches, and chills. More severe symptoms such as sudden dizziness, difficulty breathing, constant vomiting and symptoms of the flu that get better but return, should be taken as emergency symptoms.
Those who have symptoms of influenza should contact a healthcare provider. There are many healthcare providers that offer 24 hour chat rooms and lines to get assistance. The Pierce County Health department website can be a useful tool for further information.