Flu season on its way, official says

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Flu season is around the corner, and public health officials say it’s a good time to get vaccinated.

“There are no shortages in flu vaccine,” said Dr. Tom Locke, public health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Flu shots are available at pharmacies throughout the North Olympic Peninsula.

Locke told the Clallam County Board of Health last week that influenza typically ramps up after the new year and peaks in February or March.

“In terms of influenza activity in the United States, there’s really nothing going on the West Coast,” Locke said at the health board meeting Tuesday.

“We’re pre flu season.”

Upper respiratory illnesses that have been circulating around the Peninsula in recent weeks have tested negative for influenza, Locke said.

“About one year out of 10, we have an early flu season that really takes off at Christmastime,” Locke said.

“One year, in fact, it took off at Thanksgiving. Last year, it was an early flu season. It really started over Christmas and peaked in January.”

Influenza activity

Locke said there is a “significant amount of influenza activity” in Texas and the Southeast states, but only 1 percent of people with flu-like symptoms on the West Coast actually have the flu.

“When the number of people with influenza-like illness who are testing positive for influenza virus start to exceed 20 percent, that’s generally when we know we’re in a real flu outbreak,” said Locke, who is responsible for declaring the start of flu season on the Peninsula.

Health officials define a flu-like illness as a fever of more than 100 degrees with a cough or sore throat.

The state Department of Health recommends getting vaccinated, washing hands often, covering coughs and staying home from work or school when sick to avoid spreading the flu.

Locke said more than 90 percent of the health care workers at Olympic Medical Center have already been vaccinated.

“The goal is 98 percent,” he said.

“That’s something that’s increasingly become standard here.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 07. 2013 5:27PM
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