Health officials: Despite Facebook rumors, no confirmed flu deaths in Mat-Su

Published: Dec. 5, 2019 at 6:45 PM AKST
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Officials from the state health department claim that while this flu season appears different than those from recent years, it’s too early to tell if it’ll be worse than last year.

Many people have posted on social media that people are dying from the flu here in Alaska. Particularly, people have been posting on Facebook about how Mat-Su Regional Medical Center has a packed emergency room and multiple people have died from the flu there.

Alan Craft commented on behalf of the hospital claiming that they have had an uptick in the number of people they are treating for flu-related symptoms, but the posts aren’t true.

“There have been no confirmed flu-related deaths at the hospital,” he said. “Our emergency department is busy and has been busy for the past several days. It is by no means overwhelmed. We are not stretched beyond our capacity to care for patients.”

The Department of Health and Social Services responded to what was being said online also confirming that no flu-related deaths have been confirmed in the state thus far in the flu season.

All this considered, according to Dr. Louisa Castrodale, an epidemiologist in the state health department said it takes time and analysis from medical examiners before they can confirm that flu is the killer in many cases.

“Influenza can set your lungs up for a secondary bacterial infection, so you might not necessarily die of the flu immediately.” she said, “That’s why it takes a little bit of time to marry up all that information together.”

She also said the health department compiles all data on flu-related deaths as they are reported. They release them at the very end of the official flu season after it’s over. However, she said that information is available to those who request it.

There has been a recent uptick in influenza in November according to the health department. Dr. Castrodale said this year is different than previous years, but not necessarily more threatening so far.

“It’s interesting nationwide because there’s an early uptick in Influenza B,” she said. “If you look all over the Lower 48, they’re also seeing a predominance of B.”

She said normally, there’s an early spike in Influenza A before cases go down, followed by an uptick in B. While interesting, she said there isn’t really a difference in how they spread or make you feel.

In the midst of all this, every health official that spoke to Channel 2 reporters about this issue took the opportunity to remind our readers that it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

Copyright 2019 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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