Flu Hospitalizations Double In Spokane County, H1N1 Hitting Hard - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Flu Hospitalizations Double In Spokane County, H1N1 Hitting Hard

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To track the flu in your area, just go to www.flunearyou.org To track the flu in your area, just go to www.flunearyou.org

New data released from the Spokane Regional Health District Monday shows the number of flu-related hospitalizations has doubled in just the last week, now up to 90 from 45 on December 30th.

To put that in perspective, at this time last flu season there had only been 18 people hospitalized with flu-like symptoms across the county.

Making matters worse, the predominant strain circulating this year is H1N1, commonly known as Swine Flu. It's a volatile strain of the disease that can be deadly; of the three people who have died from the flu in Eastern Washington this season at least one has been confirmed to be H1N1 related. The other two are still pending testing and health officials are awaiting that information from other jurisdictions.

A woman from Tri-Cities in her 50's died of the flu in early December. Last week, a Grant County man in his 40's passed away and just a few days ago a Lincoln County man in his 40's also lost his life.

H1N1 caused a pandemic in 2009. A vaccine was developed after the strain was identified but then there was a shortage of it. The good news this flu season is the regular flu vaccine does cover the H1N1 strain and health officials say if you've been vaccinated that's your best protection against the Swine Flu.

However, it doesn't offer 100% protection. That's why it's always a good idea to wash your hands, use sanitizer, wear a mask if you have cold or flu symptoms and stay home from work or school if you are sick.

Additionally, Spokane-area hospitals are asking visitors to stay home who have the flu or a cold. Inside hospital entrances you'll find stations with hand sanitizer and masks available. Spokespeople representing Sacred Heart, Holy Family, Deaconess and Valley Hospitals say employees are highly encouraged to be vaccinated.

At Sacred Heart and Holy Family, employees who are not vaccinated are required to wear masks in patient areas. In these hospitals, visitors are being restricted to only family members at least 18 years of age in at-risk units like those in the children's hospital, the ICU and maternity floors.

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