Flu and Mumps Straining Health Systems in Snohomish County
Residents urged to save hospital visits for life-threatening conditions only
As the Snohomish Health District released last week, this year’s influenza season is proving quite severe. Official numbers released this week report that the total number of flu hospitalizations for the week ending Dec. 31 were the highest on record for Snohomish County.
Hospitals were initially required to report influenza hospitalizations with the H1N1 pandemic in 2009-2010. While no longer considered a notifiable condition, local collaboration with Snohomish County hospitals has allowed the Health District to continue collecting this information on a weekly basis during flu season. Only those patients admitted overnight due to influenza complications are counted in these numbers.
In addition to rapidly increasing hospitalization numbers, Snohomish County now has its fifth lab-confirmed flu death and first confirmed cases of mumps:
- A woman in her early 90’s from Everett with the flu and underlying health conditions died earlier this week.
- A child from Everett tested positive for the mumps after being exposed during travel to South King County, and an adult that lives in the home is listed as a probable case.
- An adult from Mill Creek tested positive for the mumps after being exposed during travel to Brazil.
“Disease outbreaks like the flu and mumps serve as important reminders to get vaccinated, wash your hands often, and stay home when you’re sick,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer and director of the Snohomish Health District. “Both of these are highly contagious and serious diseases that shouldn’t be ignored.”
The increase in flu hospitalizations not only means long waits for patients seeking care, but impacts on the broader hospital and EMS systems in the County. Partners in Snohomish County are working to balance the increased demand, but residents are also encouraged to look to other alternatives to the emergency room when appropriate. Symptoms of the flu can be similar to symptoms of mumps, but emergency care is typically only needed for the following warning signs:
- Confusion or can’t be woken up
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain or pressure in chest or abdomen
- Blue lips or skin rash
- Unable to drink or keep liquids down
- Fever in an infant under 3 months old
- Excessive irritability (for children)
If you do not have one of the warning signs, please call your provider to see if you can make an in-person or virtual appointment, or consider a walk-in or urgent care clinic.
Those with fevers and cough or runny nose should stay at home until they have been fever free (a temp less than 100.4 F) at least 24 hours without taking Tylenol or Ibuprofen. The Health District has also worked with health providers, school districts and child cares to clarify when students and health care workers should be excluded from work when ill or non-vaccinated.