County records another death from flu

Woman in 70s died last week of December; 19 deaths across state so far

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Another Clark County resident has died from the flu.

A local woman in her 70s died during the last week of December from the flu. Her death was reported to health officials last week, according to Clark County Public Health's weekly influenza report.

Earlier this month, a Vancouver man in his 80s died after contracting the H1N1 strain of the flu. He also had underlying medical conditions, according to health officials.

Across the state, 19 lab-confirmed flu deaths have been recorded this flu season, which began in December, according to the Washington State Department of Health. Last flu season, 54 Washington residents died from the virus.

"The flu can be a serious disease," said Dr. Kathy Lofy, interim state health officer, in a news release. "People of all ages can get very sick. Getting vaccinated is the best protection and can help people avoid severe illness, hospitalization and even death."

Flu activity remains high in Washington and across the country. But state health officials believe flu activity has peaked in Washington and is now on the decline.

The most prominent flu strain in Clark County, the state and the rest of the country has been H1N1, the 2009 "swine flu" virus that caused a pandemic. H1N1 viruses have continued to circulate since 2009, but this is the first season the virus has circulated at high levels since the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

H1N1 and the other circulating strains are a good match to the strains included in this year's flu vaccines, according to the CDC.

Estimates from November showed that less than 40 percent of the U.S. population had been vaccinated against flu. To best protect people and communities from flu, 80 percent or more must be vaccinated, according to state health officials.