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First Whatcom County flu death reported during 2022-23 season

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — The Whatcom County Health Department announced today, October 28th, that Whatcom County recorded its first influenza (flu) death of the 2022-2023 flu season last week.

“Looking at countries in the southern hemisphere that just had their winter flu season during our summer suggests that we will have a relatively severe flu season here also,” said Dr. Greg Thompson, Co-Health Officer with the Whatcom County Health Department. “During the past two years, preventive measures like masking and physical distancing not only blunted the worst impacts of COVID on our communities but also dramatically reduced the spread of respiratory viruses like influenza and RSV. Now that people are going back to pre-pandemic activities we are seeing a significant increase in flu and other respiratory diseases in the US.”  Whatcom County Health Department press release (October 28, 2022)

According to the County Health Department, the best protection from the flu is to get a flu vaccine during the fall. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older.

People more likely to get very sick or die are strongly encouraged to get a flu shot. These include the following. 

  • anyone 65 or older
  • people with underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease
  • pregnant people
  • kids younger than 5-years-old

While anyone can get the flu at any time of the year, most flu illnesses happen during the fall and winter. The US flu season typically runs from about October through April. 

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October is early for Whatcom County to experience its first flu death compared to previous seasons, according to Zachary Doobovsky, WCHD Public Health Nurse Supervisor. Peak flu activity is typically between December and February. 

County Health officials also said that flu illness and death trends are much higher across the nation than in the last 2 years with statistics suggesting this winter could be worse than typical pre-pandemic flu seasons.

During the weeks of October 2nd to the 15th, the County Health Department reported 11 positive influenza tests reported by PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, PeaceHealth Medical Group Pediatric Clinic, Sea Mar and Unity Care NW combined with no related hospitalizations or deaths. There were no new influenza outbreaks reported by long term care facilities reported during the same time period.

Reporting for subsequent weeks has not yet been published.

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