Idaho reports first flu-related death of the season

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comDecember 30, 2013 

First flu-related death in Idaho this season reported Monday For privacy reasons, state health officials didn’t release any information about the person who died, except that he or she was over 60 and lived in south-central Idaho. There were 35 flu-related deaths in Idaho last year.

When does flu season peak? In Idaho, it usually peaks in January or February. But last year it peaked in late December. As for this year, we won’t know until this season is over.

Some states are already being hit hard by influenza So far, Idaho isn’t one of them — though reports of people with flu-like symptoms are occurring statewide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says states with widespread influenza include Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming.

What are local hospitals seeing? St. Luke’s Health System was seeing fewer cases this year than last — until a spike about two weeks ago, according to spokesman Ken Dey. Last week, cases jumped to 311, up from 160 cases during the same period last year. Of those cases, just 11 people were admitted to the hospital. That may sound high, but it’s small compared to the 800 flu patients a week during the 2009-10 pandemic. “Still, this is the most significant spike we’ve seen since 2009,” Dey said.

Dr. Scott Culpepper, a family physician with Saint Alphonsus Medical Group, wrote that this flu season seems to fit with the typical cycle, which spikes roughly every three years. “I think this season is set to be more aggressive than the previous two years, as we started seeing our first positive flu screens back in the beginning of December.”

The 2013 vaccines are a good match The vaccines available are effective against viruses currently circulating — and that’s not always the case, state health department spokesman Tom Shanahan said. That’s particularly good news given that the main strain sidelining people is the H1N1 virus, which caused the 2009 flu pandemic.

It’s not too late to get vaccinated But because it takes up to two weeks to be fully effective, getting vaccinated sooner is a good idea, Shanahan said.

Where are flu shots available? Many places, including your doctor's office, public health departments, and pharmacies across the Treasure Valley.

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