Flu epidemic spares Issaquah community — so far

January 22, 2013

By Warren Kagarise

Beth Whitaker (left), a staff nurse at Eastgate Public Health Center, gives a flu vaccine to Patrick Gill, of Bellevue, as his wife Candice Gill looks on in sympathy after receiving her own shot Jan. 19 during the free flu clinic. By Greg Farrar

Beth Whitaker (left), a staff nurse at Eastgate Public Health Center, gives a flu vaccine to Patrick Gill, of Bellevue, as his wife Candice Gill looks on in sympathy Jan. 19 during a free flu clinic. By Greg Farrar

Health officials urge vaccinations

Flu remains widespread in Washington and throughout the United States, and local health care providers and school administrators said although the epidemic is raging elsewhere, Issaquah is OK — so far.

Nationwide, 48 states reported widespread influenza infections last week, including Washington. The extent of illness — and flu-related deaths in Western Washington — prompted local and state health officials to encourage vaccinations as flu season peaks.

Overlake Medical Center’s Eastside clinics noted a minor increase in flu vaccinations between 2011 and 2012 — 164 more. Through Jan. 16, Overlake health care providers administered 360 flu vaccinations for 2013 at Eastside primary and urgent care clinics.

Schools throughout the Issaquah area said the number of flu cases seemed average so far. If a school in the Issaquah School District reaches a 10 percent absence rate, administrators report the information to the county health agency. No school in the district reached the 10 percent threshold by Jan. 17, district spokeswoman Sara Niegowski said.

Flu can cause serious illness, even in healthy people, so health officials recommend for everybody 6 months and older to get a flu shot each year.

What to know

Research shows the influenza virus is frequently detected on the following surfaces:

  • Refrigerator handles
  • Phones
  • TV remotes
  • Microwave ovens and other kitchen surfaces
  • Door handles and light switches
  • Grocery carts

Sources: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, everydayHealth, University of Arizona

“The flu will likely continue to circulate for many weeks, so getting flu vaccine now can still provide protection for the rest of the flu season,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, chief of Communicable Disease Epidemiology & Immunization for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said in a statement. “Flu vaccine is especially important for pregnant women, people in contact with infants who are too young to vaccinate, and also to people with health conditions that put them at greater risk for severe illness and hospitalization.”

The vaccination is especially important for people at high risk for complications from the flu, including young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and recent months, and people with certain medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and neurological conditions.

The flu spreads as people with the virus generate droplets from their mouths or noses during coughing, sneezing or talking. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of others.

People can also get the flu by touching a surface or object with flu virus on it and then touching their mouth, eyes or nose.

Infected people can spread flu before they feel sick and up to seven days after. Children can spread the flu for even longer.

Reporter Lillian O’Rorke contributed to this report.

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