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First Pierce County flu death reported for 2019-2020 season

Protect yourself and people around you with a flu shot.

Post Date:12/04/2019 11:26 a.m.

TACOMA, Wash.—A Pierce County man in his 80s died in late November from flu-related complications. He had chronic health concerns that increased his complication risk. This is the first flu-related death of the 2019-2020 flu season reported in Pierce County. Information about patient vaccination status is usually unavailable so we don’t provide it. 

Flu activity is increasing locally and across the country. Emergency room and urgent care visits for flu-like symptoms are on the rise. If you travel during the holidays, your flu risk may be greater. This is especially true during air travel when you’re around more crowds than usual. 

“Vaccination is your best protection against the flu,” said Public Health Nurse Denise Stinson. “When you get a flu shot, you protect yourself from the virus and help create a circle of protection around people who can’t get the vaccine for medical reasons,” she said. 

People die or become seriously ill every year because of the flu. Flu-related deaths in Pierce County from the past three flu seasons:

  • 2018-2019—42 deaths.
  • 2017-2018—31 deaths.
  • 2016-2017—50 deaths.

What are flu symptoms?

The virus is much than a bad cold. The flu can cause days of fever, cough, sore throat, and body aches. In some cases, the flu leads to death, even for healthy people. 

How does the flu spread?

Droplets carry the virus when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can infect you 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.

Who should get a flu shot?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu shots for everyone 6 months and older, unless you are severely allergic or have had Guillain-Barré syndrome. Dec. 1-7 is National Influenza Vaccination Week. It’s a great reminder to get a flu shot to protect yourself and those around you. It’s the neighborly thing to do. Keep in mind the vaccine may not become fully effective until two weeks after you get it. If you get a flu shot and still get the flu, you should experience fewer and shorter symptoms and are less likely to spread the virus.

What are the side effects of a flu shot?

Every year, millions of people get flu vaccines—which public 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.

When should I see a doctor?

Most people with the flu can recover at home with rest, lots of fluids, and non-aspirin fever reducers. People at high risk for flu complications should contact their healthcare provider early in the illness. See your healthcare provider for an evaluation if you:

  • Have fever greater than 100.4 degrees that’s lasted more than four days (fevers may be intermittent).
  • Cough up mucus tinged with blood.
  • Have rattling chest sounds when taking a deep breath.
  • Have fainting spells, dizziness and/or severe dry mouth.
  • Urinate less, or babies have less than three wet diapers every 24 hours.
  • Are pregnant and have flu symptoms.
  • Are younger than age 5 or older than age 65.
  • Have chronic medical conditions—diabetes, heart failure, cancer, etc.—or are in other high-risk groups for complications from the flu.

When should I call 911 or go to an emergency room?

Seek emergency medical attention if anyone has:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing.
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen.
  • Bluish or gray skin color.
  • Dehydration (dry mouth, no tears, no urination for more than eight hours).
  • Severe or persistent vomiting.
  • Trouble waking up or interacting.
  • Sudden dizziness.
  • Trouble talking in full sentences.

Where can I get a flu shot?

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

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment to protect public health. We are one of roughly 240 accredited local health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at www.tpchd.org.

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