Flu season's peak has passed on Peninsula, but virus is expected to persist for several weeks

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The worst of the flu season is over, but state and local health officials say the virus will probably linger for a few more weeks.

The state Department of Health said fewer and fewer lab samples are testing positive for influenza, from 23.5 percent on Jan. 18 to 9.4 percent Feb. 8.

“Flu season is definitely over the peak,” Dr. Tom Locke, public health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, said Friday.

“We're seeing declining levels of the different markers, but it's by no means over with.

“It will probably be circulating in the community for another three to four weeks, into mid-March."

Nearly all of the positive flu samples have been the H1N1 swine flu virus, which became a pandemic in the winter of 2009-2010.

Although the symptoms can be severe, H1N1 is associated with a lower mortality rate than other flu strains, Locke said.

The state Health Department said there were 48 laboratory-confirmed flu-associated deaths statewide between last July 21 and Feb. 5.

None of those deaths occurred in Clallam or Jefferson counties.

Health officials say the real death toll is probably much higher — models suggest that about 700 people in the state die from the flu annually — because most influenza cases go unreported, Locke said.

Clallam County had 53 known flu cases this winter through Feb. 8, according to the latest statistics. All but two of those cases were H1N1.

An influenza case count for Jefferson County was not available Friday.

“Usually at this time in the flu season, people are doing less testing,” Locke said.

“They know it's around.”

Health officials recommend that people get a flu shot every year. A yearly vaccination boosts immunity, Locke said.

With the peak of the flu season in the rearview mirror, Locke said 2013-2014 was “sort of an average flu season” that could have been worse were it not for H1N1 being the predominate strain.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 16. 2014 7:59PM
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