An Everett woman in her 70s has died from a flu-related death, the Snohomish Health District reported Friday, and she is now the fifth Snohomish County resident to have died from severe influenza this month.

All but one death was in people over age 70, and all had underlying medical conditions in addition to the flu. Nationwide, more than 90 percent of flu season deaths are in adults over age 65.

Even when vaccinated, the elderly are more at risk to flu because their immune systems are weaker than in younger people, said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for Snohomish Health District. That's why flu vaccination is so important for people of all ages - so we don't spread flu to people who are most vulnerable.

Snohomish County has been hit with the flu harder this year than last. This year, nine longterm care facilities have reported flu outbreaks through Jan. 19. Last year, just one facility reported an outbreak. This year, the county reported 71 flu-related hospitalizations, while last year, just 39 residents were hospitalized and two flu-related were deaths reported.

This flu season appears to be the worst since H1N1 in 2009, when more than 100 people were hospitalized in Snohomish County, Goldbaum said. However, the current flu strain is most severe in seniors, while H1N1 caused deaths in younger people. We also have plenty of vaccine matched to the current strain this year.

People who are at high risk of flu complications, including seniors, pregnant woman, and young children, should contact a health provider immediately if they develop flu-like symptoms, including a cough, fever, sore throat, and body aches. Flu shots are recommended to protect yourself, even if you re healthy. A free vaccination clinic for uninsured adults will be available Jan. 26 at Comcast Skate Arena in Everett, Wash.

Read or Share this story: