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Flu in Washington Is Now Widespread, Say State Health Officials

This story is reprinted from the Seattle/LocalHealthGuide, a health news and information web service for Seattle and the Puget Sound Region.

The Washington State Department of Health warns that flu activity is now classified as "widespread" in Washington, which means people are catching and spreading the flu in most areas of the state.

People die from flu every season in Washington and even healthy people can get very sick with the flu, health officials said.

"Flu is a serious illness that can be fatal, and several Washington residents have died from influenza this season," said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. "Taking simple steps to prevent the flu can help people avoid this miserable and potentially dangerous illness. We urge people who haven't been vaccinated to do it now."

Washington State Health Officials strongly recommend vaccination:

Everyone six months of age and older is recommended to get a flu vaccine. Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk, including people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, young children, American Indians, and Alaska Natives.

Flu outbreaks in several long-term care facilities around the state are a particular concern, health officials said. Many people who live or receive medical care in long-term care facilities and health care centers are elderly, frail or have chronic health conditions putting them at high risk for influenza and its complications.

State Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes has sent a letter to facility managers urging them to encourage employees to get vaccinated to protect clients, patients, and themselves from the flu. Visitors to these facilities should get the flu vaccine and delay visits if they're sick.

Vaccine for adults is available in most Washington communities, though some providers may run out. Flu often comes on quickly with symptoms that may include fever and chills, cough, sore throat, muscle and body aches, and extreme tiredness.

Most people who get the flu will recover in less than two weeks, but some will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu. For some people, these complications can result in hospitalization or death.

The Department of Health urges people at risk for flu complications to contact their health care provider promptly if they develop flu symptoms. Antiviral medication – when taken within the first 48 hours of illness – can reduce the likelihood of severe illness.

For more information on influenza visit the Washington State Department of Health's Flu News webpage.

King County and Snohomish County are offering free flu vaccination clinics for the uninsured and those who are unable to pay.