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Flu cases hitting King County hospitals, clinics hard

SEATTLE – Hospitals are seeing a sharp increase in patients with the flu, according to officials from Public Health Seattle & King County.

Doctors said a strain of influenza that is going around this season is causing more people to be hospitalized. Twenty people so far have been admitted into Harborview.

This flu season is being described as moderately severe, but doctors say we still have months to go.

“We’re all seeing a rapid increase in emergency rooms and clinics,” said Dr. John Lynch with UW Medicine.

In the past two weeks, King County medical facilities have reported a surge of sick patients.

“Lots of cases, lots of hospitalizes,” said Lynch. “What I’m afraid of is we’re going to see more of that in the future and including possible deaths from influenza.”

Doctors are urging everyone to get vaccinated, officials said only around 30% of the public got a flu shot.

“The good news is that the vaccine is very well matched to the strain that’s currently circulating,” said Dr. Jeffrey Duchin with Public Health Seattle & King County.

This year’s strain, H3N2, is hitting the elderly and people with compromised health especially hard.

Duchin said families should pay close attention to loved ones living in health care facilities.

“If you’ve got loved ones in long-term care or hospitals, try to see if the healthcare workers have also received their flu vaccines,” he said.

UW Medicine said nearly 90% of its staff have already been immunized for this season’s strain.

“Everybody on our campus, every single person,” said Lynch. “Whether you work on computers or at the patient’s bedside is required to go through an influenza compliance program.”

Health officials said if you think you have the flu stay home and don’t go to work or school.

Anyone recovering from the virus is reminded the flu could still be spread for nearly a week after getting better, that’s why thorough hand washing and covering your mouth when you cough is so important.

“Those droplets can carry 3-6 feet,” said Duchin. “As long as you take precautions you can minimize the risk to your coworkers.”

Harborview said it is ready to deploy a rapid response if doctors see an even bigger increase of patients with flu-like symptoms.