Benton-Franklin Health Department: Flu season is coming
TRI-CITIES, Wash. — Flu season is right around the corner and medical professionals are encouraging you to protect your family in what might be an extremely deadly season.
So far the State of Washington reports 276 influenza-related deaths since the beginning of the year. That's up from just 68 similar deaths last season.
The Benton-Franklin Health Department told Action News the jump in numbers could be thanks to better data. They've been working with long-term care providers to more accurately document deaths.
Randy Johnson is a pharmacist at RX Pharmacy in Richland. He said so far the season seems to be off to a pretty quick start.
"Usually the peak time around here is January, but every year it changes. You never know exactly when its going to come into our neck of the woods but by the looks of it, it might be a little sooner than what the norm is"
Over at the Health Department, Heather Hill said she's heard it's going to be a rough year but that it's hard to tell until we're in the middle of it.
"We recommend you do everything you can to protect yourself, your family, and those around you from the flu. So, get vaccinated."
Johnson said right now is the perfect time to get your flu shot.
"Its not something where you get the shot and you're immediately immune."
Hill said it can sometimes take three weeks while your body learns how to protect you.
Johnson said the vaccine only contains dead viruses to trick your immune system into fighting the bug.
"Sometimes people think 'oh I got the flu from the flu shot' where in actuality its your body building up defenses so you don't get truly sick later in the season."
Hill said it's especially important for adults over the age of 65 to get vaccinated because they are the group most affected this time around.
She said even though you can still catch the flu after getting the flu shot, it's still worth it.
"It does give you the benefit of some protection. We know the older we get the more vulnerable we are. Getting the flu shot is extremely important even in that situation because some protection is better than no protection. Having some response to a flu shot might be the difference between life or death if you catch the flu."
So, while you might get sick, medical professionals agree that you wont be as sick as if you opted to skip the shot.
Hill said this may be what's happening this year. The vaccine focuses on 4 different strains of flu and sometimes a completely different strain is the one that starts going around,
"It doesn't mean the flu shot doesn't work."
That's why the Health Department said the hygiene tips you learned in preschool still apply.
The best thing you can do is wash your hands thoroughly.
"We highly encourage hand-washing all through the year not just at flu season."
Hill said it's also important to remember your general and respiratory hygiene.
She begs everyone to stop touching their eyes, mouth and nose.
She also suggested sneezing and coughing into the crook of your elbow, not your hands.