Early and active flu season in Washington state

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by ALLEN SCHAUFFLER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on January 14, 2013 at 6:13 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 14 at 6:21 PM

The flu outbreak continues nationwide, and Washington is still one of the states where it is considered “widespread” by the Federal Centers for Disease Control. That’s the highest of the agencies designations, topping “low,” “sporadic” and “regional.”

So far 6 people have died from flu in this state, but health officials warn the numbers are deceiving for what is a notoriously underreported ailment.

Not every person who gets the flu seeks medical care, not everybody who has the flu and sees a doctor gets properly diagnosed and very few who are properly diagnosed require hospitalization and extensive medical care.

All of which means thousands of people laid low by influenza just never make it into the databanks of state or federal agencies.

The Washington Department of Health calls what we’re seeing “fairly normal” in terms of flu fatalities, considering that the season is probably less than half over. Eighteen deaths were reported last year, 36 the year before and a Department spokesperson tells KING5 we really won’t know how dangerous this strain of flu is and how much impact it had in Washington, until the season is over a month or two from now.

Meanwhile the CDC acknowledges there are “spot shortages” of flu vaccine across the county and our research shows many local pharmacies are out the the vaccine and are being told by their wholesalers that there is no sure date for the next major shipment.

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