Idaho flu-related deaths increase, officials encourage flu shots

Officials see spike in flu-related deaths.

BOISE - With 47 influenza-related deaths across Idaho, health officials are urging locals to get their flu shots. Officials also say nearly half of those cases happened in the Treasure Valley metropolitan area.

They're saying it's one of the most severe flu seasons in nearly two decades.

"On average we see about 18 deaths per year," said Leslie Tengelsen, state influenza surveillance coordinator. 

This year, they're seeing more than double the average. 

"It's been a tough season and I think it's peaked a little bit later this year," said Christie Flynn, a physician assistant with Saint Alphonsus.

"We've had years when we had literally three deaths the entire year," said Tengelsen.

Officials say what we're seeing now is a far cry from what we've seen in the past.   

"Last flu season was a walk in the park honestly," Flynn said.

RELATED: Flu-related deaths higher than seasonal average

Out of the 47 influenza-related deaths, 36 have been verified and 11 current reports are in the process of verification. 

Officials say there are four different viruses circulating in Idaho. 

"So you may get one and get over it and you could get another," Tengelsen said.

Department of Health and Welfare officials say the most severe flu virus this season is the Influenza A(H3)virus. It's been affecting one age group in particular. 

"This year we're having a virus that seems to be particularly tough on the older population," said Tengelsen.

Out of 47 cases of influenza related deaths, 46 of those occurred in people over 50 years old.

"A young, healthy person may get the flu and be okay but a sick or elderly person, pregnant woman, young child could really suffer," Flynn said.

Because of that, examination rooms at Saint Alphonsus Urgent Care locations have been full. 

One of the worst parts?

"Our flu season isn't over yet," Tengelsen said. "We still have a way to go."

In the meantime, officials say to head to your local doctor's office or clinic and get your flu shot.

"It was serious enough to kill people and so people do need to take precautions," Tengelsen said.

Officials say there are several ways to protect yourself from the flu in addition to getting the shot. They urge the use of hand sanitizer often, coughing into your sleeve, and washing your hands often. They say most importantly, stay home from work or school if you are sick and go to the doctor. 

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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