Flu cases in Alaska are way up

Flu cases in Alaska are way up

Experts say wash your hands and get vaccinated.

It looks like a lot of Alaskans resolved to get the flu in 2019 based on recent flu reports.

Lab-confirmed cases of influenza have risen dramatically beginning in January, according to the Alaska Influenza Report issued by the Alaska Division of Public Health.

Through December 2018, there were 84 lab-confirmed cases of the flu in Alaska, according to the report. In January, there were 750 — there have been 1,014 total — with most of them coming in the back half of the month.

“These past couple of weeks there’s certainly been an increase,” said Louisa Castrodale, epidemiologist for the Alaska Division of Public Health.

The week of Jan. 12, there were still fewer than 100 flu cases reported. In each of the next two weeks, there were more than 300, according to the report.

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While the majority of cases in January and in general were in Anchorage, there were 54 confirmed cases in Southeast Alaska in January and 127 for the season as a whole.

“We’re detecting flu throughout the state,” Castrodale said.

It’s also just flu season in Alaska. The CDC’s most resent estimate put the number of flu sufferers at between 6 million and 7 million.

Alaska’s flu activity is among the highest in the nation for the 2018-2019 flu season, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Castrodale said each flu season features different peaks and dips in activity, so it is difficult to compare what’s happening this year with past seasons or to discern patterns.

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“The flu sort of does what it wants to do,” she said. “It’s pretty unpredictable.”

Those who want to avoid the flu are advised to wash their hands regularly and get vaccinated, Castrodale said.

“It’s never too late for a flu shot,” she said.

People who are suffering from the flu should stay home to avoid spreading the virus and stay hydrated, Castrodale said, or they should seek medical attention if necessary.

• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenHohenstatt.

A sign outside Safeway advertises free flu shots, Feb. 5, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A sign outside Safeway advertises free flu shots, Feb. 5, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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