The flu season is ramping up and it has turned deadly in Washington state.
According to the State Health Department Wednesday, influenza has claimed at least seven lives in Washington so far this season. Two deaths last week and five this week were confirmed in lab tests.
Donn Moyer, a spokesman for the department, said despite the news that this season's flu vaccine is less effective against mutations of the current strain, people should still get the shot if they can.
“It can reduce the severity of symptoms that person has, reduce the likelihood of it being transmitted to other people, it can also shorten the illness. So any vaccine protection is better than none, and it’s a safe way to take care of yourself and other people,” Moyer said.
Moyer said that this is just the start of the season -- the flu typically peaks in January or February.
Most of the deaths so far occurred in the Puget Sound area with one each in Snohomish, King, Pierce and Kitsap counties.
However Moyer says right now, Washington is currently tracking behind last season's pace of lab confirmed flu deaths - which was higher than expected at 79.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the flu virus crossed into being an epidemic this past week when flu deaths hit 7 percent.
Moyer reiterated flu prevention advice, including hand washing and coughing or sneezing into a paper towel or sleeve instead of skin.
Moyer said symptoms of the flu will hit you like a truck, and that they're much more severe than a normal cold.
“So if you have influenza or have symptoms that are feeling that way, and you're feeling really sick you should get checked out,” he advised. “Your health care professional can determine what will work best for you. But among the tactics and among the tools are anti-viral medications that can actually reduce the symptoms and make you feel more comfortable, and hopefully shorten the symptoms for a couple of days.”
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