The flu season has begun late this year in Washington state, but a recent uptick in cases indicate that the bug has arrived, Washington State Department of Health officials said Thursday.
Influenza season usually runs from November to March, peaking in mid-February in Washington state, but this year the season is off to a slow start.
Infection is common: Each year, about 5 to 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
Flu symptoms can resemble those of a cold but tend to be more severe, typically causing fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, and fatigue.
Although the vast majority of people recover from the flu, more than 200,000 Americans require hospitalization and about 36,000 die from the infection or its complications, such as a secondary pneumonias, each year.
Most healthy adults can spread the flu before they know they’re sick and for up to seven days after.
Children are two to three times more likely than adults to get sick and are more likely to spread the infection to others.
To avoid spreading the flu, people should wash their hands, cover their cough, and stay home if they’re sick, health officials said.
There is, however, still time to prevent infection by getting vaccinated, Washington state health officials said.
Who should get vaccinated?
Washington State health officials recommend a flu shot each year for everyone six months and older.
Pregnant women are at particularly high-risk of severe complications from flu infections. Vaccination not only can protect them, it also provides some protection for their child after birth.
Some children under age nine may need two doses about four weeks apart to be fully protected, they noted.
For more information about who is at risk and for who vaccination is most important go to flu.gov.
Treatment with antiviral drugs
If you’re sick with flu, antiviral medications can lessen symptoms and help prevent serious complications. They work best when started quickly.
People at high risk for complications who develop flu-like symptoms should contact their doctor promptly to see if they need medication.
Those at high risk include people with certain medical conditions, pregnant women and women who recently gave birth, young children, and people 65 years and older.
Flu season is gaining momentum at a time when whooping cough is already very active in many communities in our state, sate health officials noted. Anyone can get whooping cough but it is most serious for infants.
All teens and adults should get a whooping cough booster, called Tdap vaccine, to help stop the spread of this disease and protect babies, they said.
To find an immunization clinic:
- Call your healthcare provider
- Visit a local pharmacy
- Use the Department of Health Flu News website
- Call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588
This post originally appeared on LocalHealthGuide on March 16, 2012.