Submitted by Thurston County Public Health
Thurston County health officials report the first death in our area related to influenza. A Thurston County man in his 50’s recently died from complications related to the flu.
“It appears this person was otherwise healthy and didn’t have any of the typical risk factors, such as respiratory or heart problems. So his death is a tragic reminder that the flu is serious business and can even be deadly,” said Dr. Rachel Wood, Health Officer for Thurston County.
“We’re encouraging unvaccinated people of all ages to talk to their doctor about getting a flu vaccine,” said Dr. Wood. “Getting vaccinated helps you, but it also helps prevent the spread of the flu virus in the community. If you think you won’t catch the flu, think again. It’s not too late to get your flu vaccine.”
Dr. Wood added that there are other simple steps that help prevent the spread of the flu and other respiratory illnesses:
- Cover your mouth and nose. Cough or sneeze into your elbow or with a tissue.
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. When hand washing is not possible, use antiseptic hand gels that contain alcohol.
- Stay home if you are sick.
There are key differences between the common cold and influenza. While both infections usually include coughing, sore throat, sneezing or nasal congestion, the flu typically includes a sudden fever, body aches, and general fatigue or malaise. Signs of complications or a worsening flu infection include no improvement or even worsening symptoms after several days, constant or returning fever, or if symptoms improve for a few days but then return. If you think your flu symptoms have worsened or show signs of complications, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
Seasonal influenza is a serious illness that each year kills about 36,000 Americans and sends more than 200,000 to the hospital. The number of influenza cases in Washington has increased in recent weeks, and there have been two flu-related deaths in the state this season—one in Thurston County and one in Eastern Washington. Common complications from seasonal flu include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and worsening of chronic medical conditions like congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes. Seniors, pregnant women, children younger than five, people with chronic medical conditions like asthma or heart disease, and people who work in healthcare, senior care, and childcare are all strongly encouraged to get a flu vaccine.
For more information on the flu, go to www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/ and click on “Influenza” under the Personal Health section.