Health officials: Flu outbreak getting worse in Grant County

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The Grant County Department of Health has seen an increase in flu cases over the past month, according to Kari Hitzroth, a nurse with Grant County Health Department.

“The local and statewide numbers have increased,” said Hizroth. “Normally it is settling down and we have an end to the flu season. The last three weeks, the numbers have risen considerably.”

For the last three weeks in March, new reported cases of the flu rose from 66 for the week of March 11 to 92 for the week of March 25. These numbers only reflect those who went to the doctor and were tested.

“We have to wait for the number to go down below the baseline and stay there for two weeks before declaring an end,” Hizroth said.

Most of the cases that have been reported are in school-age children.

“The last half of the flu season, school-age children are affected,” said Hizroth. “The beginning affects the adult and elderly population.”

Hizroth said that the health department is also beginning to see some long-term care outbreaks.

“What we typically see at the beginning, we are seeing now,” Hizroth said. “We have had our third influenza death.”

Because of the influenza epidemic, Samaritan has banned all children under the age of 12 from entering the Mother-Baby Unit. The ban went into effect in December of 2018.

“Every hospital has its own policy,” said Hizroth. “Hospitals with mother-baby units tend to be pretty cautious. They don’t want newborns exposed.”

Until the influenza numbers in the county have stabilized below the number set by the Washington State Department of Health, Hizroth thinks that it is probable that Samaritan will not lift the ban.

“They have to protect the newborns,” Hizroth said.

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