SPOKANE, Wash. - New numbers show that flu-related illnesses continue to rise not only in Spokane but around the country, as health experts urge people to get vaccinated.

The Spokane Regional Health District has recorded 430 flu-related hospitalizations for the 2017-2018 season, higher than any past year since the district started recording the statistics in 2009.

Twenty-three deaths have been reported in Spokane County from the flu this season, adding to a total of 132 in the state of Washington. Epidemiologists in Spokane said the deaths are largely among those older than 65, unvaccinated, or with other health complications.

Nonetheless, experts continue to stress the importance of getting vaccinated. "It's like wearing a seatbelt," David Hylsky, an epidemiologist with the Panhandle Health District, said. "It won't prevent you from getting in a car accident but if you do get into a car accident the seatbelt hopefully is gonna prevent you from getting seriously injured or dying."

Another area seeing record numbers is the Panhandle region of North Idaho. Of all 51 flu-related deaths in the state of Idaho, 29 were recorded in the Panhandle district, more than half of that total. To add to this, of all the emergency room visits to emergency rooms in Idaho, 7.2 percent were for flu-related symptoms. That's significantly higher than the baseline of 2.4 percent.