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Flu claims first Idaho victim

A southern Idaho man over the age of 50 has become Idaho’s first influenza-associated death of the season.

Last flu season, 26 people were reported to have died from flu-related illness in Idaho.

“We’d like to express our condolences to the family of the man who died,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s State Influenza Surveillance coordinator. “This underscores the idea that influenza is in our communities, as well as how important it is for all of us to take precautions to avoid influenza infection, which can be serious for even otherwise healthy people. Now is the time to visit your health care provider, local public health district, or pharmacy to get vaccinated.”

According to health officials, influenza is a contagious, respiratory illness that infects to 20 percent of the population. It contributes to an estimated 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations in the United States.

Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and sometimes a cough and sore throat. Although most people recover after a few days, some develop serious complications and die.

People who are at higher risk include pregnant women, people who are 50 years old or older, people with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease, and people who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. Care givers are also at a higher risk.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare encourages everyone over six months of age get the flu vaccine. Options for vaccination this year include a quadrivalent vaccine, which offers protection from four strains of flu instead of the traditional vaccine that covers three strains. There also is a high-dose vaccine for people over the age of 65, and a vaccine that is injected under the skin and not into the muscle.

Along with the vaccine, Tengelsen advises people to follow these recommendations to protect themselves and others:

— Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing to prevent infecting other people. Avoid people who appear sick.

— Stay home from work or school when sick,

— Wash your hands frequently, especially after being out in the public. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth until you have washed your hands.

— Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of liquids, eat nutritious foods and take part in physical activity to stay healthy.

More information about the flu is available here.

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