Influenza continues to be widespread in Idaho — and there was a large spike in deaths in February.
There have been 47 flu-related deaths so far this season, according to Idaho Health & Welfare Department data. All but one of those deaths were people age 50 or older.
“This is one of the most severe flu seasons in the state since 2000,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, state influenza surveillance coordinator, in a press release Friday.
The largest number of deaths has occurred in Health District 4, which includes Ada, Elmore, Boise and Valley counties. There have been 15 so far.
Never miss a local story.
But Health District 1 — the Panhandle — isn’t far behind with 13 deaths.
In the past 17 years, the previous highest-recorded number of Idaho flu deaths in a season was 35. That was in 2012-13, according to Health & Welfare.
Four different flu viruses are circulating in the state this season, but the most prevalent in lab testing is the A(H3) strain. Health officials say that is the most severe of the viruses.
Influenza season runs through May 1. The good news is that the vaccines are a good match for the strains circulating this year — so health officials urge those who haven’t been vaccinated to consider it.
In October 2009, flu hit Treasure Valley school children so hard that some schools began offering free immunizations at the schools.
There are an estimated 36,000 influenza-related deaths in the United States each year, along with more than 200,000 hospitalizations, according to health officials. Children under 5, adults 65 and older, pregnant women and those with serious health conditions, such as asthma, heart or lung disease, are most at risk.