Health officials: Idaho has seen 15 flu-related deaths so far this season
Public health officials are reporting an increase in the number of influenza-related deaths in Idaho. Fifteen people have died since the beginning of this flu season on Oct. 1. All were older than 50, authorities said.
Fatal cases have been reported all over the state, according to State Health and Welfare Department spokesperson Niki Forbing-Orr. “North Idaho has reported one; southwest Idaho has reported 10; eastern Idaho has reported two. Two people who died in Idaho from flu-related complications were not residents,” she said.
“Our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones because of complications from the flu,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist. “Influenza activity is still high, and as long as the virus is circulating in our communities, the best protection for you and your family is to get the vaccine.”
Plenty of pediatric vaccine is available for those who want it, Orr said. Adults, however, should call ahead to make sure vaccine is available, or find a clinic at www.flu.gov.
Officials point out that influenza can cause severe illness, especially for certain high risk groups, including those who are pregnant, those who have diabetes, asthma and heart disease, those with compromised immune systems, and the elderly. People who are at higher risk for complications from influenza should consult with their healthcare providers within the first 48 hours of illness to see if the use of antiviral medications might be right for them.
More severe symptoms that should prompt an immediate healthcare evaluation (either by your healthcare provider or at an emergency room) include:
- Fever above 100 degrees F
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish or gray skin color
- Pain or pressure in the chest or stomach area
- Sudden dizziness
- Dehydration, not urinating enough or no tears when crying
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Being very sleepy or confused, or not waking up or interacting
- Being so irritable that nothing makes a child feel better
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and more severe cough
In addition to getting vaccinated, there are other things you can do to protect yourself and your family against serious respiratory illnesses. These include:
- Washing your hands frequently with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Covering your cough and sneeze.
- Avoiding others who appear ill.
These prevention tips are useful for influenza and other respiratory diseases currently in the community, including the common cold, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), and whooping cough (pertussis), Orr stated.
For more information about influenza, contact your local public health district or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Influenza page: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/fluactivitysurv.htm