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Flu at epidemic levels in Washington

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center emergency entrance (November 2016). Photo: Whatcom News

Seasonal influenza, aka “the flu,” is at epidemic levels across the state the Washington State Department of Health announced at the end of 2016 and Whatcom County is not immune. As a result, patients are flocking to their doctors and medical centers with symptoms.

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center (PHSJMC) has asked that anyone “with mild flu symptoms and other non-emergent health issues opt to visit their primary care physician or a drop-in clinic to avoid further inundating the facility’s emergency room.” In the 19 days between December 21st and January 9th, PHSJMC reported more than 150 emergency room patients testing positive for the flu.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says you may have the flu if you have some or all of these symptoms:

  • fever*
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • body aches
  • headache
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

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Anyone with emergency warning signs of flu sickness, including difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting and symptoms that improve but return with increased fever and coughing, should head to the emergency room according to PHSJMC.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, a flu vaccination is the best method of prevention, followed by

  • covering your cough
  • proper hand washing
  • staying home from school or work while sick

The flu shot does take up to 2 weeks to provide full protection and flu shots are currently available at pharmacies and clinic locations.

As of December 31, 2016, Whatcom County Health Department reported there had been no lab confirmed deaths in the county related to the flu and Washington State Department of Health reported 24 statewide during the 2016-17 flu season.

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