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Flu cases are down but there could be another wave of illness coming to Whatcom

Bellingham Herald - 1/18/2020

Jan. 18--The number of flu cases is dropping in Whatcom County but that doesn't mean that the flu season that came early to the county and Washington state is on its way out.

Flu activity remained high in Washington and 31 other states, according to a weekly flu report put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC report also showed a slight decline overall in flu cases nationwide.

"It is too early to know whether the season has peaked or if flu activity will increase again," the CDC said in the weekly report ending Jan. 11, the most recent data available.

In Whatcom County and elsewhere, an early flu season was marked by illnesses caused by the B strain of the flu.

That's still the case here although the overall number of confirmed flu cases has dropped, according to the Whatcom County weekly flu report ending Jan. 11.

There were 38 positive flu B tests and seven positive flu A tests, according to the weekly report compiled by the Whatcom County Health Department.

That's compared to 112 flu B cases and 10 flu A cases in Whatcom County for the week ending Jan. 4.

Two people have died in Whatcom County because of flu-related illnesses so far this season, according to the county flu report.

Is flu on its way out in Whatcom County?

That's hard to predict, Whatcom County Health Officer Greg Stern said to The Bellingham Herald on Friday, Jan. 17.

Stern pointed to the CDC report, which noted that, nationally, the percent of tests that came back positive for flu A viruses had gone up.

"The key message is although overall flu activity looks like it's decreasing, we're concerned there might be a wave of influenza A happening," Stern said.

What should people do?

"Get vaccinated," Stern said of the flu vaccine. "It's not 100% but it does reduce the risk."

He also recommended that people get the pneumococcal vaccine, depending on their age, or if they have medical conditions that require them to do so because pneumonia is one of the complications of flu.

And do other things to help keep the flu from spreading, Stern said.

That includes staying home if you're sick, covering your cough and washing your hands, he said.

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