DOH reports 2022-2023 flu season was the deadliest in five years

Flu vaccination rates for children and preganant people reportedly dropped from pre-pandemic rates.

Following two seasons of low flu activity, the 2022-2023 flu season was the deadliest in five years, according to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).

A reported total of 262 Washingtonians died from the flu, including 257 adults and five children — which is a tenfold increase compared to the 2021-2022 flu season.

Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates as many as 640,000 flu hospitalizations and 57,000 flu deaths occurred between Oct. 1, 2022, and April 29, 2023.

This year’s flu vaccine reduced the risk of influenza A-related hospitalization among children by nearly three-quarters and among adults by nearly half, according to the CDC. Despite vaccine effectiveness, flu vaccination rates have decreased nationally in certain groups. Flu vaccination rates for children dropped more than 6% and rates for pregnant people decreased by nearly 15% compared with pre-pandemic rates.

“While respiratory illness precautions such as masking and social distancing helped keep the number of flu cases low during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s especially important now that most of us are around other people again to get a flu vaccine every year,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah. “The flu vaccine is your best protection against this serious disease. Even if you get the flu, if you’ve been vaccinated, typically your illness is milder and you aren’t as likely to need to go to the hospital.”

The DOH recommends practicing frequently washing hands, staying home when sick, and wearing masks in crowded spaces also help prevent the spread of the flu. Those most likely to be affected by severe flu disease include people over the age of 65, those who are immunocompromised, people who are pregnant, young children and people with chronic health conditions.

In Washington state, flu activity rose at the end of October and peaked by the end of November, according to the DOH. As of the end of April, there was only minimal flu activity.