Rarely fatal strain helps cause county’s first flu death

ckrotzer@theolympian.comFebruary 7, 2013 

A 23-year-old Thurston County woman has died from complications related to the flu, marking the first flu-related death in the county.

There have been 28 flu-related deaths reported in Washington state so far this flu season.

The woman died at the end of January, but county health officials were waiting to see if she tested positive for the flu, according to Dr. Diana Yu, county health officer.

The woman tested positive for Influenza B, a strain Yu said rarely causes death.

“In this case, she was ill for a couple of days, got better, then got worse,” Yu said.

The woman likely died from secondary pneumonia, but Yu said the official cause of death will be determined by the county coroner.

The woman had no other risk factors, other than that she was a smoker, Yu said. The woman had not had a flu shot.

Despite the death, Yu said the number of flu cases is going down in the county. The number of cases spiked in January, causing local hospitals and medical centers to ask any employees who had not had a flu vaccine to wear a mask.

Some areas also asked patients showing signs of the flu to use masks.

The most difficult part about flu season is getting young, healthy people vaccinated, Yu said.

“For a long time we weren’t pushing healthy people to get flu shots,” Yu said. “We were pushing the elderly ... turns out they don’t work really well in people who are ill or elderly.

“In order to protect against the flu, all the healthy people need to get (vaccinated) so we don’t have the flu in the community.”

A few steps can help stop the spread of the flu, such as covering the mouth and nose while sneezing, washing hands often with soap and warm water, and staying home if there are signs of sickness.

Those suffering from the flu often suffer from coughing, sore throat, sneezing, nasal congestion, sudden fever, body aches and fatigue.

ckrotzer@theolympian.com

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