FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 22, 2022
Flu season ramping up as other viruses continue spreading
A surge in illnesses is overloading healthcare providers. People can help by using telehealth options and avoiding unnecessary visits to urgent or emergency care.
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – Flu activity is increasing rapidly, and is expected to continue increasing through the end of fall and into the winter.
The percentage of hospital visits for flu-like illness already is at least four times higher than the same time period in 2020 and 2021, according to the Snohomish County Influenza Surveillance report for the week ending November 12, 2022.
Of nearly 1,200 influenza tests performed in the county, roughly 1 in 4 came back positive. That’s nearly double the positivity rate from the previous week. While data for the most recent week (ending November 19) is not yet final, initial indicators are that Snohomish County may be nearing 50% positivity for flu testing.
In short, flu season is here, and it has arrived in full force after several seasons when illness prevention measures kept flu activity unusually low.
Meanwhile, other potentially serious respiratory viruses also are circulating. The Snohomish Health District has heard from healthcare providers, as well as from community partners like schools and child cares, that there has been a large increase in people getting sick compared to the last couple of years. This has been seen around the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which issued an advisory earlier this month.
Respiratory syncytial virus – more often called RSV – is circulating at very high rates. This disease particularly impacts children.
COVID-19 continues to spread at lower levels than in the last few years, but is expected to increase this winter.
These illnesses can cause serious problems and hospitalization. Very few beds are available in local hospitals at this time, especially for children.
Pharmacies, clinics and stores also are experiencing shortages in some medications for children. Healthcare providers as well as parents seeking medicine for a sick child are likely to have a hard time getting certain high-demand options, including Tamiflu, over-the-counter cough medicine such as Robitussin and Delsym, and children’s Tylenol or ibuprofen. There also is a nationwide shortage of liquid amoxicillin, a common antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections such as ear infections.
“It is essential that we as a community put our best efforts into keeping our children, our elders, our families, and ourselves healthy,” said Dr. James Lewis, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District. “We know what works – get vaccinated, stay home if you are sick, keep up with handwashing, and wear a mask in crowded indoor settings. Masking not only protects against COVID, it also protects against other respiratory viruses including flu and RSV.”
It is not too late to get your annual flu shot, and to make sure you are up-to-date on COVID vaccination, including your bivalent booster.
“People 6 months or older should get vaccinated,” Lewis said. “Though vaccines don’t offer 100% protection against getting sick, they greatly reduce the likelihood of getting sick enough to need a hospital. These immunizations can also reduce your risk of transmitting flu or COVID to others if you do get infected, which helps protect your family, loved ones and the wider community.”
Other ways to help:
- Avoid unnecessary in-person visits to clinics, urgent cares, or emergency rooms. Use telehealth options when possible. If you have insurance, you can call the nurse lines available through your insurance provider and/or your healthcare provider. Check your insurance card, online account, or paperwork; multiple providers list a number that you can use for questions about symptoms and next steps.
- If you are experiencing a medical emergency, such as chest pain, struggling to breathe, broken bones or uncontrolled bleeding, you should seek emergency care right away. The goal is to avoid non-emergency visits and free up capacity to address these types of urgent medical needs.
- If you, your child, or anyone in your household has symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, sneezing, headache, runny nose, body aches, fatigue, wheezing, difficulty breathing, or fever, they should stay home from work, school, and other activities. This includes sports, child care, events or parties.
- Wait until fever is gone without the help of medicine for more than one full day, and other symptoms are gone or getting better, before returning to work or other activities. If you test positive for COVID-19, stay home until at least five days after the positive test or start of symptoms and wear a mask for at least an additional 5 days after coming out of isolation.
- Wash hands often and well, and cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue or elbow. You also may choose to wear a mask in shared public spaces. Please respect and support others who choose to mask, as well, even if you are choosing not to.
- If you or a household member has underlying health conditions that increase risk of severe illness, talk to your doctor early about additional preventive measures or what to do if symptoms like a bad cough or high fever begin. High-risk individuals may need antiviral treatment to help reduce the severity of illness.
Flu information, including influenza surveillance reports, is available at www.snohd.org/flu.
Information on COVID-19 vaccination can be found at www.snohd.org/covidvaccine.