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Snohomish County has third flu death; new cases decline

The Daily Herald - 1/19/2020

EVERETT — Flu deaths continue to hit home, but the number of new influenza cases is decreasing.

A Lynnwood man in his early 60s died Thursday, the third Snohomish County death in the 2019-20 flu season.

The man had underlying medical conditions, as did the other two people who died, according to the Snohomish Health District.

In Washington, 36 people, including three children, have died this season from the flu. Nationwide, there have been 6,600 deaths, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with about 13 million flu illnesses and 120,000 hospitalizations reported.

The first round is winding down in what officials say is an unusual flu season. New cases peaked in December, with influenza B as the predominant strain. There are two main strains, A and B. Typically, influenza A strikes first.

There were 287 confirmed cases of the flu in the county during a one-week period ending Jan. 11, the latest figures available. Of those, 217 were the B strain. The week ending Jan. 4 had 259 cases of the B virus, out of 339 total.

"We've seen a slight decrease, but influenza B is still circulating," said Heather Thomas, a Snohomish Health District spokeswoman. "We're also waiting to see if influenza A cases pick up."

Washington is among 32 states with high flu levels in the CDC's weekly report.

So far, there have been 52 hospitalizations and 12 schools reporting greater than 10% absenteeism due to influenza-like illness in the county. Two long-term care facilities reported an outbreak.

The first two deaths were a woman in her early 30s from a rural northern part of the county on Jan. 1 and a Lake Stevens man in his late 80s on Jan. 5.

During the 2018-19 flu season, there were 26 confirmed flu-related deaths in the county, while 362 people were hospitalized.

"It's not too late to get that flu shot," said Thomas, the health district spokeswoman.

Been sick with the flu?

Don't forget to clean and disinfect to prevent the spread.

"The flu virus can hang around on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours," she said. "Think of all the common items in your home: doorknobs, remote controls, cell phones and other electronics."

People who are at higher risks for flu complications, such as pregnant women, infants, or seniors, should contact their health care provider with early signs of illness.