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Flu season starts early in the county and state

Officials with the Whatcom County Health Department and the Washington State Department of Health are reporting earlier than normal significant increases in cases of influenza, commonly referred to simply as the flu. A significant increase in the number of recent Influenza B positive cases is being blamed for the spike at both the state and county level.

Data is from Family Care Network’s Point of Care Testing, Quest Diagnostics at PeaceHealth, and Sea Mar’s Point of Care Testing in Whatcom County. Data provided by Whatcom County Health Department.
Graph shows the proportion of visits at a subset of emergency departments across Washington state for a chief complaint of influenza-like illness, or discharge diagnosis of influenza, by CDC week. Graphic provided by Washington State Department of Health

While there have been 5 lab-confirmed influenza deaths and 8 influenza-like illness outbreaks in long-term care facilities in Washington state as of December 7th, there have been none reported in Whatcom County as of December 14th.

Whatcom County Health Department offers the following advice for avoiding the flu.

The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.

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• Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

• Stay home when you are sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

• Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

• Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

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• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

• Practice other good health habits.
Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

Source: http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/967/Influenza

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