Local health officials recommend getting a flu shot now

TACOMA -- The flu season officially began two weeks ago. Even though no serious cases have been reported in our state, health officials are putting out a warning.

Mary went to her pharmacy Wednesday to get a flu shot. She knows it’s still early in the season, but she didn’t want to wait.

“I’m going to be 72 next month, and you have to have the senior one," she said. "Usually by the time they have it at the pharmacy, I’ve caught the flu.”

Seniors like Mary are most at risk to get complications from the flu, but local health officials say it can hit anyone. That’s why they’re encouraging people to prepare now.

“Getting the flu vaccine is the first and most important thing you can do,” said Jenny Nybo, a nurse/epidemiologist with Pierce County.

Lisa Bostwick said she has been thinking about getting the shot.

“I usually don’t, but I’m going to this year. Because of everything that’s going around right now.”

She says hearing about the Ebola cases in Texas have made her worry. But nurses say more people in this country will get the flu than Ebola.

“The flu can be a very serious disease,” said Nybo. “Every year, about 11,000 people die of the flu.”

Last year in Washington, 79 people died from the flu. Twenty-two of the deaths were in King County and 10 were in Pierce County. One of the most active strains the last few years has been H1N1, or swine flu. Unlike other strains, it can affect young adults in good health.

But Nybo said people can protect themselves by practicing good hygiene and getting a shot soon, even though flu season in Washington doesn’t usually get bad until December.

“It takes about two weeks after you get the vaccine for your body to really develop a good immune response.”

Washington state provides flu vaccines at no cost for those under the age of 18. Most insurance plans cover the vaccines for adults. You can check with your local doctor or pharmacy to find out more.