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WASHINGTON — Washington this week recorded its first flu-related deaths in almost two years, as influenza activity across the state rises to moderate levels, state health officials announced Wednesday evening.
The Washington State Department of Health said three seniors, all aged 65 or older, tested positive for influenza A and later died from related complications, marking the first instance of multiple flu deaths reported since the 2019-2020 flu season.
During that flu season, officials said Washington recorded 114 deaths, with three dozen confirmed by this point in the year. By comparison, flu activity during the 2020-2021 flu season ranks among the lowest on record, despite high rates of testing, which officials credit to measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19.
"Flu is a highly contagious disease that can cause severe illness and death, even in healthy people," DOH wrote Wednesday. "Last season, flu activity was historically low, likely due to increased COVID-19 precautions, such as mask-wearing, remote learning, occupancy limits, and work from home measures taken during the pandemic."
While overall hospitalizations remain precariously high across much of Washington, health officials continue to encourage residents to seek out both COVID-19 and flu vaccines to help guard against serious infection or becoming ill with both at the same time.
"Hospitalizations across the state remain high due to omicron, and other respiratory viruses like influenza could overload them even more," said Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, the state's chief science officer. "Take steps now to get you and your family vaccinated against the flu. Vaccination will help keep you and your family healthy and out of the hospital, especially those with chronic health conditions."
According to state health officials, flu activity often peaks between December and February, but they caution no two seasons are the same and activity can linger as late as May. Residents can check flu activity reports and learn more about getting a flu vaccine on the DOH website.