Public health officials are concerned because Idaho is seeing more influenza-related deaths at this point in the season than in the same timeframe in the previous seven seasons.
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare officials said they received five new reports in one week of Idahoans who have died from influenza-related illness, bringing the season total to thirteen deaths.
“Flu is widespread in Idaho -- and may be especially severe this season,” said, the State Influenza Surveillance Coordinator Randi Pedersen. “Unfortunately, this flu season is far from over. Influenza activity typically peaks in Idaho in January or early February. If you haven’t yet gotten the vaccine, it is not too late! Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your family from this serious illness.”
Everyone over six months old is recommended to get the flu vaccine, unless they have medical reasons to avoid it.
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. The predominant strain currently circulating in Idaho is influenza A(H3), but influenza A(H1N1) and influenza B also have been detected.
Last flu season, 72 people were reported to have died from flu-related illnesses in Idaho -- which far exceeded the annual average of 23 deaths during each season from 2009-2010 through 2015-2016, health experts said. The first reported influenza-related death last season occurred in December.
Most people who get influenza recover after a few days, but some people may develop serious complications. Every year, influenza contributes to an estimated 36,000 deaths in the United States, along with more than 200,000 hospitalizations.