What happened to Daniel Fickle – a relatively healthy 50-year-old – is unusual, said Denise Stinson, program coordinator with the Communicable Disease Control division of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.
But it is not unheard of for younger, healthier people to be hospitalized with severe influenza.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 60 percent of people hospitalized this flu season are between 18 and 64, according to The Washington Post.
“We probably have a handful of people every year that this happens to,” Stinson said.
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Although the very young and very old are generally more at risk each flu season – which typically ends in March or April – Stinson said people in those age groups are more immune to this year’s H1N1 strain, the so-called “swine flu” that first struck in 2009.
“Influenza can be a very serious disease no matter what, though,” she said, adding it is miserable for all people no matter the severity.
Health conditions that increase risk of severe in-fluenza are lung conditions such as asthma, diabetes and pregnancy. Obesity also is a risk factor for the H1N1 strain, Stinson said.
As of last week, 138 people were reported hospitalized from influenza in Pierce County, and Stinson said more likely went unreported. Six flu victims have died so far.
Everyone older than 6 months old should get a seasonal flu shot, especially healthy people, Stinson said.
“The flu vaccine works a lot better for healthy people,” she said. “We depend on the younger, healthier people to get the vaccine so then we can achieve lower levels of disease in all groups.”