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Washington’s flu hospitalizations highest in 10 years

Nika Bartoo-Smith / The Colombian

The Washington State Department of Health and Human Services has reported a rapid increase in flu cases across the state, following national trends. Hospital admissions for flu are at their highest level in 10 years at this time of year, according to a press release.

Washington has had four flu-related deaths since Nov. 12, according to Health Department data.

In addition to the flu, hospitals across Clark County are seeing an influx of other respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. The hospital and intensive care beds are currently almost full.

“Our state’s pediatric health care system is overwhelmed with an extremely high number of children with respiratory infections,” said Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, Chief Science Officer of the Washington State Department of Health, in a press release. “There is an urgent need for families to do everything they can to keep everyone healthy and avoid the need for health care, and flu vaccination is one of the most important prevention tools.”

The most commonly observed strain of influenza to date is influenza A, known as H3N2. This strain usually causes more serious illnesses, although all currently available flu vaccines protect against it, according to the Department of Health.

Free at home Covid-19 test kits

The Washington State Department of Health and Human Services will continue to offer free at-home COVID-19 testing to residents through at least the end of 2022. Washingtonians can take up to 10 free trials per month through the Say Yes! Order the COVID test” at sayyescovidhometest.org. The kits are then delivered free of charge to the customer’s home or work address. For more information on preventing the spread of COVID-19, visit https://doh.wa.gov/emergencies/covid-19.

“Influenza activity is increasing in the region and it is crucial to get vaccinated as soon as possible to be protected,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, director of Clark County Public Health. “It can take up to two weeks to achieve full protection after vaccination. Anyone over the age of 6 months can be vaccinated. Early research shows this year’s influenza vaccine is effective against the types of influenza that are spreading in the community.”

Health officials are urging people to take action to stay healthy and prevent the spread of the flu and other respiratory illnesses. The health department recommends the following:

— Get the flu vaccine and COVID-19 refresher.

— Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap is not available.

— Sneeze or cough into the crook of your arm.

— Avoid close contact with sick people.

— Consider wearing a mask.

— If you are sick, stay at home.

The flu vaccine is available at most pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and clinics. The flu vaccine can be received the same day as an updated COVID-19 booster, according to the Health Ministry.

For more information about where to schedule a vaccine or booster shot, go to www.vaccines.gov. Visit KnockOutFlu.org for more information on preventing the spread of the flu.

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