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Flu season is in full swing in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta

Evan Erickson

During KYUK's Wellness Wednesday, Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) Public Information Officer Nicholai Joekay spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Bates and Brian Lefferts on the air about flu season, which is in full swing. They said that they're already seeing a huge surge of flu cases in the Yukon-Kuskokwim (Y-K) Delta, which is earlier than normal.

In 2019, influenza A, the strain of the flu that comes earlier in the season, didn't peak until January. In 2022 the peak was close to December, and there are already signs that the contagion season is earlier this year. Dr. Bates predicts that contagion will peak in October, particularly the flu.

“So influenza is a contagious respiratory illness, in particular, that's caused by the influenza virus. And it can infect the nose, throat, lungs, and sometimes the stomach. The illness usually lasts about five to seven days, but symptoms can linger for as long as six weeks,” said Bates.

Authorities say that the flu vaccine is now readily available. They note that they are also seeing an increase in all other respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and RSV.

“We're definitely seeing, just for the current history, increased hospitalizations of Elders and particularly children. I think children have been disproportionately hospitalized this flu season.” Bates said. “And so that's just something that I think about when I think about vaccination and who should be, we should kind of make sure, get vaccinated early. But we're already seeing those hospitalizations, which we typically don't see until November, December.”

To stay safe, Bates recommended following the same precautions as with COVID-19: wash your hands frequently; stay home if you're feeling sick or have a cough, runny nose, or fever; avoid interactions with vulnerable populations; and wear a mask. Also, test to see if you are sick with COVID-19. Those tests are available for free at the security desk at the hospital, and in villages people can schedule tests at their local clinics.

To schedule an appointment for a free vaccine in Bethel, call 907-543-6442. In villages, call your clinic. Flu shots are available at the hospital gathering place on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. with no appointment necessary.

Sunni is a reporter and radio lover. Her favorite part of the job is sitting down and having a good conversation.