UW Medicine: 2022 flu season off to 'historically severe' start

Health officials at UW Medicine say this year’s flu season is off to a "historically severe" start, and hospitalizations are their highest since 2011.

Ordinarily, flu cases do not spike until December—but Harborview Medical Center infectious diseases specialist Dr. John Lynch said this season’s wave of flu-related illness hit in late November.

CDC data shows adults 65 and older, and children under age five currently have the highest rates of hospitalization.

"We're definitely seeing that within UW Medicine hospitals, as well," said Lynch. "At each of our facilities, we're seeing high numbers of influenza patients with a variety of presentations, from mild to very severe."

As of Thursday, UW Medicine reports around 100 inpatients being treated for flu or COVID-related illness across their four hospitals.

Lynch urges people to use the "Swiss cheese model," a risk-management process with layers of protection from illnesses like flu, COVID-19 and RSV.

"It's multiple layers: getting vaccinated, getting boosted, staying home when you're feeling sick, getting tested for COVID and connecting to care, if that's helpful for you," said Lynch. "Stay at home when you're sick and stay away from other folks."

According to the CDC, only 12.7% of eligible people in the U.S. have received the updated bivalent COVID-19 vaccine. Lynch says getting the latest dose is key to lowering COVID transmission.

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

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"Getting boosted is really important, and we know we're missing around 90% of people, particularly folks who are at high risk for disease progression."