The flu epidemic has killed two people in Thurston County, county health officer Dr. Rachel Wood told The Olympian on Friday.
Both victims were older than 65, and she did not know if they had received the vaccine.
“The vaccine appears to be a good match,” she said. However, there are at least seven other viruses that produce flu-like symptoms, she said, and the vaccine will not protect against them.
Those who contract the flu will experience a “sudden onset, feeling like you’ve been hit by a train,” Wood said.
Wood recommends that people who think they have the flu stay home and treat themselves. If they need a doctor, she advises going to a primary care physician or walk-in clinic rather than a hospital emergency room.
“The state epidemiologist has identified that we’re now at an epidemic level in the state,” Edie Jeffers, a spokeswoman for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, said last week.
Hospitalizations have increased dramatically.
“It is pretty severe,” Dr. Preeti Kondal, an infectious disease physician at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, said last week. “These are the highest numbers I’ve seen, close to the H1N1 pandemic (in 2009).”
The epidemic designation comes well before the typical peak of the flu season in February or March.
It’s not too late to get a flu shot.
Slowing the spread of flu helps protect those most vulnerable to it: the young, the elderly, and those whose immunity and and health are compromised.
Once someone is infected, it might take seven to 10 days to rid the body of the flu virus. People can remain infectious for as long as seven days after becoming sick, according the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fever (but not in all patients).
Muscle and joint aches.
Sore throat and cough.
HOW TO STOP THE SPREAD
Wash hands with soap and water every time you use a bathroom.
Avoid touching your face with your hands.
Sneeze and cough into your elbow, not your hands.
If you are sick, stay home.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention