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Number of flu cases spiking in King County, officials say

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SEATTLE — More people are starting to come down with the flu across Washington state, and King County reported Tuesday that it sees cases spiking.

“Over the past two weeks we’ve seen flu activity take off with marked increases in positive laboratory tests for flu and people seeking medical care. The number of people seen at hospital emergency departments with flu-like illnesses to-date is more than we’ve seen at this time of year for the previous five years,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County told the department’s Public Health Insider.

“We haven’t peaked yet and I can’t predict when that will happen or how high it will be compared to other years,” Duchin added.

The state Department of Health said there have been nine lab-confirmed influenza deaths reported for the 2016-17 season so far.

During the week of Dec. 18 to Dec. 24, the proportion of outpatient visits from influenza-like illness was 2.2 percent in Washington state, above the baseline of 1.1 percent, the Department of Health said.

Duchin said those people at higher risk for serious illness, complications and hospitalization from the flu include:

  • People with asthma
  • People with diabetes, and those with liver disorders or kidney disorders
  • People with heart disease and those who have had a stroke
  • Adults 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People who have a weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or those on chronic steroids)
  • People who have cancer
  • People with extreme obesity
  • People with neurodevelopmental/neurocognitive conditions
  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
  • Native Americans/Alaskan Natives

Duchin said anyone in one of these groups or who has regular contact with members of these groups should get the flu shot, wash hands frequently, and stay away from others if you have flu symptoms.

He also said that flu outbreaks are increasing in local long-term-care facilities. If you have a loved one in a such facility, Duchin said, ask if their staff have received their flu shots this year.