Idaho medical providers and hospitals are reporting an increase in visits for influenza-like respiratory illnesses across the state, prompting concerns that this year's flu season could be more serious than the past several years, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Since the beginning of this flu season on Oct. 1, eight flu-related deaths have been reported in Idaho, all in people older than 50. Idaho typically experiences approximately a dozen flu-related deaths each year. The last severe season was 2003-2004, in which 28 flu-related deaths were reported.
Nationally, almost all states are reporting high flu activity.
The influenza vaccine is the best protection for you and your family, says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist. The vaccine appears to be well-matched to the dominant flu strains circulating. If you have not been vaccinated, please dont wait any longer. In addition to getting a flu shot, IDHW also recommends washing your hands frequently with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and avoiding others who appear ill.
The majority of people suffering from the flu usually get better on their own. But in some cases, the flu can cause severe illness, especially for certain high risk groups such as those who are pregnant, have certain medical conditions including diabetes, asthma and heart disease, those with compromised immune systems, and the elderly. People who are at higher risk for complications from the flu or severe symptoms should consult with their healthcare provider within the first 48 hours of illness to see if the use of antiviral medications might be right for them. Health officials recommend anyone who has the flu visit the doctor or emergency room if severe symptoms develop including fever above 100 degrees, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing, bluish or gray skin color, pain or pressure in the chest or stomach area, sudden dizziness, confusion, dehydration, severe or persistent vomiting, fatigue, confusion or having flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and more severe cough.