The exceptionally late influenza season leads to a recrudescence of cases


SEATTLE – Hospitals and health officials report a sharp increase in the number of influenza cases in the state of Washington this month – a time of year when the flu season is usually in to finish.

A record number of HIV-positive people in Snohomish County this week and five people have died of the flu in Kitsap County alone since the end of February. As of March 9, there were 93 confirmed deaths from the flu laboratory in the state.

The end of this year's influenza season is due to an unusual increase in influenza virus circulation, says Dr. Jeff Duchin, Public Health Health Officer for Seattle and King County.

During most influenza seasons, the influenza A virus circulates first and is followed by a type B influenza virus later in the season.

But the flu is unpredictable and this season has started with influenza A / H1N1 and is now followed by a large and late outbreak of influenza A / H3N2, the two strains continuing to circulate, says Duchin.

And it's a problem, he says, because the A / H3N2 strain causes higher rates of serious illness, hospitalizations, and death than other types. Current levels of influenza-like illness and reported cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza are the highest seen in recent years, he said.

Historically, February was the month most affected by the flu. But this year, it's clear later. And Duchin said he expects the flu season to last another four to six weeks or more.

For this reason, Duchin says it's always a good idea to get vaccinated against the flu if it's not already done. The current vaccine is 47% effective, meaning that if you get the flu shot, your chances of getting it will go down by almost half. And if you get sick and have been vaccinated, it significantly reduces the duration and severity of the disease.

An influenza vaccine is particularly important for those at higher risk, including people over 65, young children, pregnant women, nursing home residents, and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes or asthma.

People with flu-like symptoms who see their doctor within two days can also get Tamiflu, which can shorten the duration of the virus.


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