Despite concerns, flu remains at normal level for Idaho this year

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The infection rates for flu and measles have returned to Idaho’s average as the peak season ends, relieving many of the fears about the potential dangers.

As of Thursday, 25 people in Idaho have died from flu-related causes since November, according to online data from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Four of those cases occurred in District 7, which contains Bonneville and Madison County, and all but one death was a resident over the age of 50.

Over the last decade, the flu has killed fewer than 30 Idaho adults per year on average. Last year’s flu season saw a dramatic spike up, with more than 100 Idahoans dying from flu-related causes that winter.

Not all of the flu numbers show that level of improvement from last year. During one week in February, more than 5 percent of outpatient clinic visitors reported flu-like symptoms. That rate of infection is higher than any other week since 2015 and the highest for that specific week since the department began graphing infection rates in 2009.

Influenza was not the only disease that health officials were tracking this winter. Measles became a concern for the state after an outbreak among unvaccinated children infected 71 residents of Clark County, Washington, earlier this year. The concerns were heightened because of the low rate of vaccinations in some areas of the state — six counties in Idaho have less than half of their children protected by the MMR vaccine.

Two months since the outbreak, though, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported no cases of measles this year. Department spokeswoman Niki Forbing-Orr said that Idaho has not seen a measles case since 2001 but warned patients to remain careful and consider getting vaccinated if they aren’t already, as there is still a risk of an outbreak in the state.

“If you do feel sick in that way, you should avoid infecting others. Stay at home, keep your kids at home and call your doctor instead of visiting their office,” Forbing-Orr said.

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