Across the country, a nasty type of the flu — one that tends to lead to hospitalization and causes more deaths — is challenging healthcare and long-term care facilities at a rate rivaling the 2009 swine-flu pandemic.

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While the nation grapples with the worst flu season in nearly a decade, the bug is seemingly losing momentum in Washington state.

Overall, health-care providers statewide are seeing a downward trend of patients seeking help for flu symptoms in recent days, said Dr. Vivian Hawkins, an influenza coordinator at the state Department of Health. Communities or isolated areas, though, may still be experiencing high rates.

This season’s number of reported flu-related fatalities in Washington (151) is lower than the total at this time last year (214), according to the department’s latest compilation of flu data.

“Things are improving,” Hawkins said. “We’re seeing fewer specimens testing positive for flu, but that doesn’t mean the flu is over here — we’re definitely still in the thick of flu season.”

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Across the country, a nasty type of the flu — one that tends to lead to hospitalization and causes more deaths — is challenging healthcare and long-term care facilities at a rate rivaling the 2009 swine-flu pandemic.

A government report released Friday showed 1 of every 13 doctor visits was for fever, cough and other flu symptoms.

The winter flu season started early and was widespread in many states by December, hitting what seemed to be peak levels last month, but then continued to surge.

“We’re not seeing quite as grim of a picture,” Hawkins said. “We’ve definitely been hit hard here in Washington,” but the rest of the nation was hit a little harder.

Of the deaths in Washington state, state officials linked 109 cases to influenza A and 38 to influenza B, according to the department’s report, which measures the 2017-18 flu season over a 12-month period beginning in October. In four cases health-care providers did not report a type.

Most people who died had underlying health problems or were elderly; one child younger than 4 was among the victims, the report shows. Long-term-care facilities, such as nursing homes, have tracked 134 outbreaks of flu-like illness.

“It’s hard to say how things will shake up from here,” Hawkins said. Though “there is a peak in the winter, the flu doesn’t ever go away.”

Public-health officials urge people to closely monitor how they and their families feel, especially among groups most at risk: children under age 5, seniors over age 65, pregnant woman and people with preexisting health conditions. Everyone 6 months or older should get flu shots.

Unless experiencing a medical crisis, people feeling flu-like symptoms, ranging from a sore throat to body aches, should contact their doctor’s office via a nurse-consultation line before seeking help at a hospital to avoid overwhelming emergency rooms, Hawkins said.

For more information, including treatment tips, check the department’s website.

Information from The Seattle Times archives and The Associated Press contributed to this report.