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February 22, 2013 at 12:23 PM

Flu in Washington ‘widespread’ but declining; 45 dead

The flu virus remains widespread in Washington, but the number of cases tested is declining, according to a weekly report from the Centers for Disease Control.

The virus is still prevalent in most regions of the state, and the number of cases is still elevated. However, the Washington Department of Health noted the number of patients visiting emergency rooms with flu-like symptoms statewide is starting to decline.

The virus peaked statewide at the end of January. While it has since declined in Western Washington,  it peaked in Eastern Washington during the week ending Feb. 9, according to the CDC.

There were 37 reported flu cases in King County during the week ending Feb. 16, the most recent week for which data are available from the University of Washington. This is down from a season high of 135 cases in the county during the week ending Jan. 26.

Statewide, there were 45 lab-confirmed deaths from the virus through Feb. 20, and 20 were in King County. Pierce County, which had the second highest number of flu-related deaths, saw four during that same time.

This past week, four out of seven total lab-confirmed deaths were in King County.

Donn Moyer with the state health department noted more than 80 percent of flu-related deaths have been people 65 and older, which is consistent with national statistics.

Lab-confirmed deaths are the only reliable way the state has to track the virus’ prevalence, however it is not a perfect measure, Moyer said. It only includes people who were tested for flu, and many experience symptoms without ever being tested.

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