OLYMPIA -- Influenza illnesses are increasing and health officials at the Washington State Department of Health urge Washingtonians to get a flu shot now. Officials also want people to avoid spreading the flu and to know when it’s okay to be cared for at home and when they should get medical care.
“People who are sick should stay home from holiday gatherings where influenza and other illness can spread. If you have symptoms of the flu it’s better to miss some of the holiday fun than to risk infecting others – especially those people who are at higher risk of serious complications,” says Dr. Scott Lindquist state epidemiologist for infectious diseases.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Symptoms of flu include fever, chills, body aches, and a cough or sore throat. It can cause severe illness in some people, and can sometimes lead to death. Last flu season 278 people in Washington were confirmed to have died from influenza.
Flu can be especially dangerous for pregnant women, young children, people age 65 and older, and those who have underlying health conditions such as asthma and other chronic diseases. These people should contact their doctor’s office if they get flu-like symptoms. Antiviral drugs may be prescribed to treat the flu. These drugs work better when started within 48 hours of flu symptoms. While most people who do become ill with flu can be safely cared for at home, there are some symptoms that should trigger immediate emergency care.
Each flu season, flu causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands or sometimes tens of thousands of deaths.
Flu shots are the best way to prevent the flu, and are available at most pharmacies and health care providers. Everyone six months of age and up is recommended to get a flu shot. People in close contact with high-risk groups, should get a flu shot to protect themselves and the people in their care.