Flu season still in full swing in western Washington

SEATTLE -- The seasons are about to change from winter to spring, but the calendar still shows we are in the middle of flu season, which typically runs from October through the end of April.

“The people who get most infected are healthy adults,” said Dr. John Lynch with UW Medicine.

Healthy adults usually fight off the flu without complications, but many who are hospitalized or die have underlying conditions increasing their risk.

“The people who have bad outcomes are folks in the extreme of age, so little babies, older folks and those with other medical problems like heart problems, or diabetes or who are immunocompromised,” said Lynch.

In King County, 10 flu-related deaths have been reported so far this season, most are seniors.

In Pierce County 17 flu-related deaths have been reported so far this season, and all of those had at least one contributing risk factor. The most common according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department are obesity, diabetes, chronic lung and heart disease. Forty-seven percent of those hospitalized for the flu in that county were also obese.

Doctors say those additional factors play a part in how effective the flu shot can be.

“So, what’s really important is that those groups who have bad outcomes, don’t do well vaccines. It just doesn’t work that well with them,” said Lynch.

He says that’s why community protection, or herd immunity, is an important issue with the flu vaccine.

“Only about one in three people get vaccinated, and what we need is 80 percent of folks to get vaccinated to have protection for all of us,” said Lynch.

He added that the flu shot isn’t perfect, but it is the best protection available now. Lynch says people who get the flu shot are not only lowering their chance for the flu, but also protecting those with risk factors from getting the flu.

The CDC says this year’s flu vaccine is showing to be about 47% effective.

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