Kennewick police and the Benton County coroner are investigating the death of a 29-year-old Kennewick woman who may have died of the flu.
Elizabeth M. Thursby reportedly was found dead in bed on the 800 block of South Fruitland Street after being sick with severe influenza-like symptoms for several days, police said.
Benton County Coroner John Hansens said an autopsy is scheduled for today, and he's waiting for the results of lab tests to confirm if the Columbia Basin College student had the flu.
If confirmed as influenza, her death would be the first from the virus in Benton or Franklin counties since the current flu season started.
Influenza is a viral respiratory illness with symptoms that include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.
The virus spreads through droplets that are transmitted when sick people cough, sneeze or talk. Droplets can land on other people or on surfaces or objects that people touch, the state Department of Health said.
While most people recover in a few days and need no more treatment than plenty of rest and fluids, flu can be dangerous -- or even deadly -- for young children, seniors and people with chronic illnesses that weaken their immune systems.
Hansens couldn't say Monday if any other factors may have contributed to Thursby's death.
"We are uncertain of the cause of death," he said.
Thursby was born in Spokane but lived most of her life in the Tri-Cities, according to a funeral home death notice.
Health officials recommend frequent hand-washing and covering a cough or sneeze to help prevent the spread of flu. They also recommend getting vaccinated.
The flu vaccine is available at many pharmacies and doctors' offices, and at the Benton Franklin Health District by appointment. Call the district at 460-4200 to schedule one.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @mduplertch