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TMCNet:  Flu Declining in Lewis County, Leveling Off Statewide

[February 07, 2013]

Flu Declining in Lewis County, Leveling Off Statewide

Feb 07, 2013 (The Chronicle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- After reports of widespread flu spiked around Lewis County in January, the number of cases are beginning to decline this month.

Two percent of patients at Providence Centralia Hospital's emergency department reported flu-like symptoms this week, which is below the average of 5 percent for this time of year, according to the hospital.

The number of patients reporting symptoms in the emergency department reached 19 percent in early January, the hospital reported.

The Providence Centralia Hospital emergency department sees about 100 patients a day, spokesman Chris Thomas said.

"One of the contributing reasons it is going down is because the word is starting to get out," Thomas said.

The number of positive flu tests at Providence Centralia have decreased from 17 percent to 5 percent of patients in the past month.

Although figures are declining, Thomas said, the hospital is still requiring employees who have not had a flu vaccine to wear masks in patient care areas.

Thomas said the hospital is also discouraging people from visiting patients if they feel sick.

The last time the hospital required employees to wear masks was in 2009 to protect patients from the H1N1 flu.

State health department spokesperson Donn Moyer said statewide figures are leveling out, but this flu season is still more severe than the past two years.

The World Health Organization confirmed 28 deaths due to influenza in Washington as of Jan. 30, with none reported in Lewis County. Moyer said 18 deaths were reported last year and 26 were confirmed in 2011.

Lewis County Health Department epidemiologist John Abplanalp said 30 doses of flu vaccine are still available at the county health department.

The county health department offers vaccines on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. For children without insurance, the vaccines will cost up to $15 depending on parents' income, Abplanalp said. Adult vaccines cost $10 without insurance.

Residents can also call their healthcare providers or stop by a pharmacy for a vaccine.

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