Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer, and Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer, and Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

Flu season about to begin

Health officials urge vaccinations now

The beginning of the flu season is quickly approaching, and health officials are urging members of the public to protect themselves by getting an annual flu shot.

“We haven’t seen much flu activity yet, but we are preparing,” said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer.

“All the major clinics and pharmacies in town should have an adequate supply of vaccine.

“We don’t really know what strains are circulating yet, or exactly when it’s going to hit,” she added.

Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, said influenza typically strikes after the holiday season in January or February.

He added that now is the “perfect” time to get a flu shot. The vaccine provides immunity to most flu strains and lasts for at least six months.

“We already have reported three confirmed cases here in Jefferson County, which does not mean flu season has begun, but it’s certainly around,” Locke said Thursday.

“As is typical at this time of year, we’re ramping up vaccination efforts.”

Health officials are encouraging high-potency vaccinations for those who are 65 and older, Locke said.

New studies suggest the higher-potency shots are more effective at preventing flu for the elderly, Locke said.

“We’re certainly getting the word out to [health care] providers about those,” Locke said.

Flu vaccinations are recommended for everyone 6 months or older. Flu shots are available at most health care clinics and pharmacies around the North Olympic Peninsula.

“The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year,” Jefferson Healthcare officials said.

“The vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. Flu vaccine also has been shown to be life-saving in children.”

Common flu symptoms include sore throat, fever, cough, and aches and pains. Some experience nausea and vomiting, usually children.

Health officials stress good hand hygiene and recommend that people with the flu stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone to avoid spreading the virus.

The state Department of Health said young children, pregnant women, people 65 years and older and those with certain chronic health conditions are at high risk from complications of flu.

Health care workers and caregivers of babies and older adults should get vaccinated to protect themselves and those they care for, state officials said.

“It’s essential to take the flu seriously and just as essential to get a flu vaccine every year,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer, in a news release.

“Flu vaccine is now available statewide at most pharmacies and health care provider offices. Everyone 6 months old and older, including kids, teens, pregnant women and healthy young adults, should get vaccinated.”

During the last flu season, 241 Washingtonians died from the flu and its complications, mostly older adults and those with pre-existing health conditions.

“We need to do better to protect each other,” Lofy said. “Get your family vaccinated now before flu strikes.”

Health officials look to the Southern Hemisphere for clues on the severity of the upcoming flu season, Locke said.

Australia recently had its worst flu season on record, Locke said.

“That’s no guarantee we’re going to follow suit, but it’s something that we’re aware of,” Locke said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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