BOISE, Idaho — The first two deaths among Idaho residents this influenza season have been reported to the Department of Health and Welfare. Two women in northern Idaho, both over the age of 70 years, died from flu-related causes.
“The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is reminding residents that flu can be serious,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, the Idaho Influenza Surveillance Coordinator. “Although these deaths occurred in northern Idaho, influenza activity is on the rise statewide. One important prevention measure for Idahoans is to get an annual flu shot.”
Local public health officials in Idaho are also responding to outbreaks of influenza among residents of assisted-living and long-term care facilities in several communities throughout the state. Influenza can spread rapidly in residential facilities. It’s important that the people who live there, their caregivers, staff, and visitors are all vaccinated and follow good hand-washing and sanitation practices to prevent spreading flu.
Influenza is contagious, causing respiratory illness in 5 to 20 percent of the population every year. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills, or fatigue. Although most people who get influenza recover after a few days, some people may develop serious complications. The good news is that flu can be prevented.
Everyone over six months of age should get an annual influenza vaccine. Getting the flu shot every year is especially important for people at higher risk for serious flu-related complications including people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children, and anyone 65 years of age or older. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to determine which flu vaccine is best for you.
During the four previous seasons in Idaho (2014/15 through 2018/19) an average of 64 influenza-related deaths occurred, with most deaths occurring among people over 70 years of age.
Dr. Tengelsen advises people to take these precautions to limit the spread of flu:
- Wash your hands frequently. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth until you have washed your hands.
- Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of liquids, eat nutritious foods, and be physically active to stay healthy.
- Avoid people who appear sick.
- Stay home from work or school when sick.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.