Whatcom County recorded its first influenza (“flu”) death of the 2022-2023 flu season this week. Across the country, flu illness and death trends are much higher than in the last two years, and statistics suggest this winter could be worse than a typical pre-pandemic flu season.
“Looking at countries in the southern hemisphere that just had their winter flu season during our summer suggests that we will have a relatively severe flu season here also,” said Dr. Greg Thompson, Co-Health Officer with the Whatcom County Health Department. “During the past two years, preventive measures like masking and physical distancing not only blunted the worst impacts of COVID on our communities but also dramatically reduced the spread of respiratory viruses like influenza and RSV. Now that people are going back to pre-pandemic activities we are seeing a significant increase in flu and other respiratory diseases in the US.”
The best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get a flu vaccine this fall. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months and older. Find a flu vaccine provider at https://www.vaccines.gov/find-vaccines/
Some people are more likely to get very sick or die than others. These people are at the highest risk and are strongly encouraged to get a flu shot:
- Anyone 65 or older.
- People with underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.
- Pregnant people.
- Kids younger than five.
People can get the flu at any time of the year, but most flu illness happens during the fall and winter. The exact date of the US flu season varies from year-to-year, but typically runs from about October through April.
October is early for Whatcom County to experience its first flu death compared to previous seasons, according to Zachary Doobovsky, WCHD Public Health Nurse Supervisor. Peak flu activity is usually between December and February.
Whatcom County flu deaths by winter season:
- 2022-2023 Season: 1 (current season, one so far, occurred in October)
- 2021-2022 season: 1 (previous season, death occurred in January 2022)
- 2020-2021 season: 0
- 2019-2020 season: 4
- 2018-2019 season: 8
- 2017-2018 season: 7