Flu season in the Inland Northwest
Influenza, or the flu, is a highly contagious illness caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms can be mild or severe. Two primary types of influenza are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics: influenza A and B.
Let’s learn who’s at risk, ways you can prevent the flu, steps you should take if you get the flu and what the current flu status is for the Inland Northwest.
Who’s at risk for the flu?
Anyone can get the flu, but certain groups are more at risk than others. In particular, seniors, those who are pregnant, children and people with certain health conditions have a higher risk of serious flu complications. Complications may include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, ear infections, and in more severe cases, hospitalization and sometimes death.
Influenza can also cause increased complications for those dealing with chronic health conditions. For example, people with asthma may experience more frequent and severe attacks. People living with diabetes are also at risk of complications due to their weakened immune system’s ability to fight off infections.
How can I prevent the flu?
One of the most important actions you can take to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated. Although there are many different strains of the virus, the flu vaccine protects against a few of the most common.
There are also a number of everyday measures you can take to help prevent the flu virus, including:
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water throughout the day.
- Avoid touching your face, as germs can enter through your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Avoid coming in close proximity to anyone you believe may have the virus or has been exposed to the virus.
- Clean and disinfect any surfaces you come in contact with.
- Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough.
What should I do if I get the flu?
If you do happen to get struck with the flu virus, it’s recommended that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. Flu symptoms can include:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body/muscle aches
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important that you see a doctor right away. If you do have the flu virus, antiviral drugs can be used to help make the flu less severe, and in some cases, lessen the time you’re sick.
Cold vs. flu
It’s often difficult to determine if the symptoms you’re experiencing are from a cold or the flu. The common cold and the flu are both respiratory illnesses but are caused by different viruses. In most cases, symptoms of the flu are more severe than those of the common cold. To be sure, your doctor can run special tests that must be done within the first few days of contracting the virus.
Influenza in the Inland Northwest
For most of Washington, fall typically signals the start of influenza season. In the Inland Northwest, influenza cases started out slow, but have been on the rise. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified Washington as one of 12 states that has reported a higher amount of influenza-like illness.
According to the Spokane Regional Health District, from October to mid-January, there have been 95 influenza hospitalizations within Spokane County and one influenza-related death. In comparison, during the same time last year there were 127 hospitalizations with 6 influenza-related deaths in Spokane County.
Gretchen LaSalle, MD, with MultiCare Rockwood Clinic, says that this year she has noticed more influenza B cases in the Inland Northwest region. She says that with influenza B, vomiting tends to be a more common symptom.
Although there have been fewer influenza hospitalizations this year, that number is expected to increase dramatically in January and February once flu season really takes off. If you haven’t yet, get in and get the flu vaccine. Help protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu this season.
About The Author
Cody Hanson is the digital marketing specialist for the MultiCare Inland Northwest's marketing team. He manages online reputations for both MultiCare providers and locations in the region. He also manages paid search, display, retargeting and social media campaigns. You can reach him at [email protected].More stories by this author