Washington DOH gives update on respiratory virus season ahead of holidays

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) delivered an update on respiratory virus season and other health topics on Tuesday. 

According to the DOH, flu infections have spiked across the state, threatening to overwhelm hospitals already struggling with capacity. Health officials have warned of a ‘tripledemic’—hospitalizations fueled by a combination of flu, RSV and COVID-19 illness.

While flu cases are up, RSV cases appear to be leveling off, health officials said Tuesday.

Last Friday, the DOH announced that 26 people from Washington state have died from the flu this year. 13 of those deaths happened last week. Of the total, three were children.

RELATED: Flu season claims 26 lives in WA, local health officials now recommend masks indoors

Both Seattle-King County Public Health (KCPH) and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) are recommending people wear high-quality, well-fitting masks in indoor public spaces. Both agencies are saying that local communities are experiencing an ‘unprecedented surge’ in respiratory illnesses, including RSV, influenza and COVID-19. 

Amid this ‘Tripledemic’, which is the term some health experts are calling the wave of three viruses, local health officials say the best ways to prevent the spread includes the following:

  • Stay up to date on vaccinations, whether that be COVID-19 booster shots, or flu shots
  • Staying home from work and school, and testing for COVID-19 if symptoms develop
  • Having a plan for rapid treatment for COVID-19 and the flu for those who are considered high-risk individuals
  • Improving indoor air quality through ventilation, filtration and UV technology when appropriate

Local health officers say the flu will likely circulate for months, so they are recommending people receive their flu shot as soon as they can.

RELATED: Washington health officials say flu deaths, hospitalizations on the rise

The flu is most dangerous for:

  • Children under 5, especially for those under 2
  • Adults 65 years or older
  • Pregnant individuals
  • Anyone with pre-existing health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart disease