First flu-related deaths this season reported, both people had COVID-19

Posted at 1:26 PM, Nov 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-04 15:26:46-05

Two people over the age of 60 in Blaine and Twin Falls counties have been reported as the first flu-related deaths of the season. A news release from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says both people also had COVID-19.

One person lived in Blaine County and was a man older than 60 and the second was a Twin Falls County woman over 80 years old.

“The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is reminding Idahoans that both infections can be serious and there is concern that co-circulation and co-infection with influenza and COVID-19 viruses could be especially harmful, particularly among adults already at increased risk of influenza-related complications,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, the Idaho influenza surveillance coordinator. “I encourage everyone to get their annual flu vaccine as soon as possible to reduce the chance of getting the flu. This is extremely important this season.”

The release says Idaho sees 41 flu-related deaths each year on average, mostly among people older than 50.

The flu is a contagious virus that causes respiratory illness in 5 to 20 percent of the population annually. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills or fatigue. Most people recover from the flu within a few days, but some may develop serious complications that lead to hospitalization or death.

IDHW says the flu can be prevented and the most important action to take is to get your flu vaccine now. The flu vaccine does not prevent COVID-19, does not cause a person to test positive for COVID-19 and does not make people susceptible to COVID-19, according to IDHW.

The department says everyone over 6 months old should get a yearly flu vaccine. The vaccine is important for people more at-risk for flu-related complications, including those with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children and anyone over the age of 65. IDHW says to talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to determine which flu vaccine is best for you.

Dr. Tengelsen advises people to take precautions to limit the spread of respiratory viruses, including influenza and the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Wear a mask and physically distance yourself whenever you are in public.
  • Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer frequently.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth until you have washed your hands.
  • Stay home from work or school when sick.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Avoid people who appear sick.