Idaho flu-related deaths jump to 13

In this Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 file photo, a flu vaccine injection is administered at the Brownsville Events Center by a pharmacist in Brownsville, Texas. According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, this year's flu season is off to a quick start and so far it seems to be dominated by a nasty bug. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

Five Idahoans died from the flu within a single week, bringing the season total to 13 deaths, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported.

One of this season’s deaths was in the Eastern Idaho Public Health District, which serves Bonneville, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison and Teton counties, an email from Public Information Manager Niki Forbing-Orr said. That person was over the age of 50. Neither their gender nor city of residence was made available. Twelve of this season’s 13 deaths were people over the age of 50. Eight of the deaths have come in the Panhandle Health District.

State health officials are seeing more influenza-related deaths at this point in the season than in the same time frame in the previous seven seasons, a Health and Welfare news release said.

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, the release said.

“Flu is widespread in Idaho and may be especially severe this season,” Randi Pedersen, the state influenza surveillance coordinator, said in the release. “... 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 6 months of age is recommended to get the flu vaccine, unless they have medical reasons to avoid it.

Besides getting the flu vaccine, everyday actions to stop the spread of influenza include:

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing to prevent infecting other people. Avoid people who appear to be sick.

• Stay home from work or school when you’re sick so you don’t infect others.

• Wash your hands frequently, especially after being out in the public. 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 take part in physical activity to stay healthy.

Every year, influenza contributes to an estimated 36,000 deaths in the United States, along with more than 200,000 hospitalizations, the release said.

For information about influenza, visit flu.idaho.gov.

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