Flu outbreak in the Tri-Cities

TRI-CITIES, WA. - KEPR learned flu cases are spiking even earlier in the season. More people are getting sick even while more flu vaccines being given out. KEPR set up an interview with a pharmacist who then canceled due to the flu. Here's a look at how you can stay healthy.

Alicia Mora, has two children with asthma. She brought them in for a checkup, but not for a flu shot, she's already got that covered.

"I have seen it a lot, a lot of people having the flu, showing the symptoms," said Alicia Mora.

Alicia is not alone. Officials at the Benton-Franklin Health District tell me the number of people who test positive for the flu hovers around 30% at the peak of the flu season.

In the last two weeks, there has been a 10% increase in positive findings, bringing us locally to 15% of tests coming back positive for influenza.

"Generally speaking we don't see many flu cases till Feburary, the first of March," said local pharmacist Wright Fujikawa.

Pharmacist Wright Fujikawa says he's seeing more people getting sick earlier in the season.

"The most I have seen this early in the eight years I have been with Yoke's," said Fujikawa.

During the last flu season the Health District vaccinated more than three-thousand people against the flu during a 12-month time span. Just four-months into this season, the health district alone has vaccinated about 2600. So if more people are getting flu shots, how are more people getting sick?

"If you get a flu vaccine it doesn't guarantee you won't get the flu," said Fuijkawa.

But this year's vaccine is said to be well-matched to the most common strains going around. So it's not too late to get yourself protected. Pharmacists recommend one for everyone over six-months, not just those most at-risk.

"I do think about it, I just haven't done it," said Mora.

The flu virus may already be here, but there's still plenty of time to get vaccinated.

Most flu shots are covered by insurance and local drug stores will bill them directly. The health district will also bill your insurance. And if you don't have insurance, the county will not turn anyone away if they can't afford to pay.

One more note, if you're squeamish about shots the health district is also the place to find the vaccine that goes in your nose, no needle needed.