PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — It’s flu season in Pierce County, but Nigel Turner, director of the Communicable Disease Control division of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, says this year is different.
“Right now, it’s at a moderate to high level and increasing rapidly, and this is concerning,” he said. “This is an earlier increase and a larger increase that we’ve really seen since COVID took hold.”
Children appear to be particularly vulnerable.
The Health Department put out a notice earlier this week that stated many schools reported higher than usual absenteeism due to a range of flu-like symptoms.
Turner said it’s likely many children are experiencing these viruses for the first time.
“Many of the younger children wouldn’t have seen any of these respiratory diseases, so they’re coming across them for the first time,” Turner explained. “They don’t have the immunological memory that provides protection.”
Shallae Hobbs, health administrator of Tacoma Public Schools, said they have received more reports of people getting sick than usual. Attendance across the district has seen a slight decline.
But, she said that even though school environments carry a higher risk of transmission, school gives people the tools they need to keep the flu at bay.
“We are in a perfect place to educate our families and provide resources which pulls us ahead from those other locations that can’t offer that,” she said.
Turner went on to say that getting a flu shot is highly recommended for anyone over six months old, and although it takes two weeks for the shot to become fully effective, there’s still time to get one to protect yourself this flu season.