Idaho man dies from flu-related illness

BOISE, ID - A northern Idaho man –- described by health officials as simply “over the age of 50” -- has died from an influenza-related illness. 

This is Idaho’s first influenza-associated death of the season. The first reported influenza-related death last season didn’t occur until December, officials said. 

Last flu season, 72 people were reported to have died from flu-related illnesses in Idaho. On average, 23 people die from flu-related illness each year, based on data from 2009-2010 through 2015-2016 flu seasons, experts said.

“The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is warning residents that the flu season appears to have arrived early this year, with this first influenza-related death of the season and early reports of flu activity from other parts of the state,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, the state influenza surveillance coordinator. 

“This underscores how important it is for all of us to take precautions now to avoid influenza infections. In addition to washing your hands and staying home if you are sick, visit your health care provider, local public health district, or pharmacy to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Getting vaccinated today will help protect you and your family now and for the rest of the influenza season,” she said.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that infects 5 to 20 percent of the population every year. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and sometimes a cough and sore throat. 

Most people who get influenza recover after a few days, but some people may develop serious complications and even die. Every year, the flu contributes to an estimated 12,000 to 56,000 deaths in the United States, and 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations.  

People who are especially vulnerable to complications of the flu include: 
•Pregnant women or those planning on being pregnant during the influenza season
•Children 6 months through 59 months of age
•People 50 years of age or older 
•People of any age with an immunocompromising condition or with certain chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, heart, or lung diseases
•Children and adolescents at risk for developing Reye syndrome
•People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
•American Indians and Alaska Natives
•Obese people
•People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu

Everyone over six months of age is recommended to get the flu vaccine, unless they have medical reasons to avoid it. 

Options for vaccination this year include vaccines that offer protection from four strains of flu, and many vaccines that cover three strains. There is also a high-dose vaccine for people over the age of 65, and a vaccine that is injected under the skin and not into the muscle. 

As in last year’s flu season, nasal spray vaccines are not available, health experts pointed out.  

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