Four Flu Deaths Reported in King County, Health Officials Urge Vaccination
Local health officials are urging people of all ages to get vaccinated against the flu, which has already claimed four lives in King County alone this season.
In addition to the deaths, the number of positive tests has doubled since mid-December, according to Dr. Jeff Duchin with Public Health – Seattle & King County. And this year's most prevalent strain, the H1N1 virus, is one that hits younger people especially hard.
H1N1, formerly known as "swine flu," caused a pandemic in 2009. The good news, says Duchin, is that this year's immunization protects against H1N1 and is widely available. (Map: find nearest vaccination location)
Experts say adults between 20 and 70 — those who are usually the least susceptible to communicable disease — seem particularly vulnerable to this strain of flu.
“The H1N1 is a little bit different than other flu strains in that it can affect kind of the age group that's not normally affected, in those adolescents and early adulthood, the 20s and 30s,” said James Corbett, immunization coordinator at the public health district in Idaho Falls.
Otherwise, the influenza virus is behaving in its usual manner this year. Flu season tends to start in the south and move in a northwesterly direction. The CDC is now reporting high rates of flu-like illness in Idaho, which means Oregon and Washington are likely next. Deaths have been reported in all three states.
Washington, Oregon and Idaho are among 25 states now facing widespread cases of the flu, according to the latest figures released Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.