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First flu-related death reported in 2016-2017 season

December 22, 2016

Death comes as flu activity increases in Pierce County

Flu vaccine is the best protection against the virus. Still time to get vaccinated.

TACOMA, Wash. – A Pierce County resident died Dec. 19 following complications from the flu. The man was in his 60s. He had chronic medical conditions that increased his risk of complications from the flu virus.

The flu is worse than a bad cold. It can cause days of fever, cough, sore throat, and body aches. Each year thousands of people go to the hospital because of the flu. And the virus can lead to death. During the 2015-2016 flu season, 15 people died in Pierce County because of flu-related illness, and in the 2014-2015 flu season, 25 flu-related deaths occurred.

“People may have concerns about the current mumps outbreak, but each year the flu makes far more people sick and can result in death,” said Matthew Rollosson, nurse epidemiologist at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. “Getting an annual flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and those around you from the flu,” Rollosson said.

Flu activity in Pierce County is on the rise in our community, with more people testing positive when they visit their healthcare provider and get tested. Hospital admissions for flu-related illness have also increased. The number has gone from three in the week ending Nov. 19 to eight in the week ending Dec. 17.

Why should I get a flu shot?

It’s a neighborly thing to do. You help to protect yourself and the health of those around you when you get a flu shot. The Health Department recommends the flu vaccine for people six months and older. The more people in Pierce County who get vaccinated, the less flu can spread in our communities. Higher rates of vaccination mean fewer visits to the doctor and days missed from work or school. Although the flu is circulating now, it’s not too late to get vaccinated to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

Can I still get sick?

No vaccine is 100 percent effective, but when more people are vaccinated, less illness circulates in the community.

Those who are immune compromised or cannot get vaccines because of medical reasons have better protection. Even if a person who has received the shot becomes ill, the vaccine can still protect many people and prevent flu-related complications.

Some people are more at risk for flu complications, especially:

  • Seniors
  • Children under age five.
  • Pregnant women
  • People with diabetes, asthma, or other chronic conditions.

If you are at higher risk for flu complications and you develop flu complications, see your health care provider right away. Antiviral medications taken within a day or two after the flu symptoms start might help people at higher risk avoid complications, including pneumonia, hospitalization, and death.

What are the side effects of a flu shot?

Every year millions of people get flu vaccines, which health experts carefully monitor. Most people get a flu shot with no problem. Side effects include soreness, redness, tenderness, or swelling at the spot of injection. These side effects are mild and short-lived, especially when compared to symptoms from a bad case of the flu. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu.

How does the flu spread?

Droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk carry the virus. These droplets can infect a person directly or through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. Be sure to:

  • Wash your hands often with soap or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.

Where can I get a flu shot?

You can get a flu shot at many local pharmacies. Also, check with your health care provider about the vaccine. Learn more about where to get the flu vaccine and other flu facts at www.tpchd.org/flu.

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