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posted on January 11, 2013 11:46

NEWS RELEASE--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                  Date: Jan. 11, 2013              

Contact: Niki Forbing-Orr
Public Information Officer
(208) 334-0693

Idaho flu season on track to be more serious than past years 

The influenza season arrived early this year and evidence suggests it is still on the rise. Idaho medical providers and hospitals are reporting an increase in visits for influenza-like respiratory illnesses across the state, with the 2012-2013 influenza season shaping up to be more serious than the past several years.  Nationally, almost all states are reporting high flu activity, including Idaho. Some hospitals in Idaho are reporting high usage of emergency room resources for common flu symptoms.

Since the beginning of this flu season on Oct. 1, eight influenza-related deaths have been reported in Idaho, all in people older than 50. Idaho typically experiences approximately a dozen influenza-related deaths each year. The last severe season was 2003-2004, in which 28 influenza-related deaths were reported.

“The influenza vaccine is the best protection for you and your family,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist. “The vaccine appears to be well-matched to the dominant flu strains circulating. If you have not been vaccinated, please don’t wait any longer. “ 

In addition to vaccination against influenza, there are other things you can do to protect yourself and your family against serious respiratory illnesses. These include:

  • Washing your hands frequently with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoiding others who appear ill.  

These prevention tips are useful for influenza and other respiratory diseases currently in the community, including the common cold, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), and whooping cough (pertussis).  Make sure you and your children are current on the whooping cough vaccine.

The majority of people suffering from the flu usually get better on their own. Home care guidelines can be found at the following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention link: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/homecare/

Even so, influenza can cause severe illness, especially for certain high risk groups such as those who are pregnant, have certain medical conditions including diabetes, asthma and heart disease, those with compromised immune systems, and the elderly. People who are at higher risk for complications from the flu or severe symptoms should consult with their healthcare provider within the first 48 hours of illness to see if the use of antiviral medications might be right for them. 

More severe symptoms that should prompt an immediate healthcare evaluation (either by your healthcare provider or at an emergency room) include:

  • Fever above 100° F
  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or stomach area
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Dehydration, not urinating enough or no tears when crying
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Being very sleepy or confused, or not waking up or interacting
  • Being so irritable that nothing makes the child feel better
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and more severe cough

For more information about influenza, please contact your local public health district or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Influenza page: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/fluactivitysurv.htm