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Flu is reported at normal levels in Kitsap County

The flu has come to town. But according to local health officials in Kitsap County, there’s no more than the usual number of cases.

“We don’t mandate that health providers report numbers of cases to us,” said Scott Lindquist, director of the Kitsap Health District. “But what I can tell you is that the flu is out there.”

Both H1N1 and H3N2 have been reported locally. Flu strains are numbered based on their surface protein markers. Lindquist said this is done to track flu strains year to year.

From talk among health professionals, it is clear that the flu is out there, he said. But only the number of deaths due to flu must be reported.

Thus far, Lindquist said there is one confirmed flu death in Kitsap County. That victim was elderly and had other health issues.

“One death is not unusual,” Lindquist said. “In fact it’s probably less than normal.”

He also said that there is a possible second death from flu, but that has not yet been confirmed.

There have been reports of Type A and Type B flu in Kitsap County, which is the norm year-to-year and both are covered by the current flu vaccine.

In terms of flu vaccine, Lindquist said there is plenty available in Kitsap County and people who want to be vaccinated, either with the spray or injection, should see their local health care provider. There is also flu vaccine available at local pharmacies, he added.

Lindquist said there also is a medication that can help ease the symptoms of the flu.

“People who have the flu should call their doctors within the first day or two, if they are experiencing high fever, body aches and the usual flu symptoms,” he said. “They can get started on an anti-viral medication (Osel Tamivir) that can help out.”

To keep from spreading the flu, everyone should remember to wash hands frequently, cover their coughs and stay home from work if they are sick, Lindquist said.

“The flu is a bad bug no matter what,” he said. “It kills hundreds of people every year and it is something that is totally preventable.”

Officials at Harrison Medical Center said the flu has been seen in both Bremerton and Silverdale.

During the week of Jan. 19 to 25, Harrison had nine patients in precautions for influenza-like illness and two of the nine were laboratory confirmed influenza A, said Jacquie Goodwill, spokeswoman for Harrison Medical Center.

While those cases of the flu were treatable, there have been deaths related to flu.

“Since the beginning of this year, we’ve had two deaths in patients with laboratory confirmed influenza however they had other co-morbidities (other illnesses and conditions they were dealing with) and their deaths were not specifically caused by the flu,” she said.

Goodwill said the staff prepared for the flu to arrive by being vaccinated themselves.

“A total of 92.4 percent of staff, contract staff, and employed physicians at Harrison Medical Center were vaccinated,” she said.

That included 2,274 people getting their flu shot and those who declined to be vaccinated were required to watch a video on preventing spread of the flu, she said.

They also were informed to wear a mask in any patient care area.

The flu has also arrived across the nation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported that influenza activity remained high in the U.S. in the past week.

Of 9,514 specimens tested, 2,006 or 20 percent were positive for influenza.

The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza was above the epidemic threshold, CDC officials said. Nine influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported.

All 10 regions reported flu-like illnesses above region-specific baseline levels.

Ten states including Washington experienced high flu activity; 12 states and New York City experienced moderate flu activity; 14 states experienced low flu activity; 14 states experienced minimal flu activity, and the District of Columbia had insufficient data.

The geographic spread of influenza in 38 states was reported as widespread; 10 states reported regional influenza activity; the District of Columbia and one state reported local influenza activity.

For more information  about the flu, go to www.kitsapcountyhealth.com.

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