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Health officials say ample supply, time to get flu shot

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Local clinics and medical groups have seen a surge in the number of people getting immunized against the flu this year.
And for those who haven't, but want to, there's still time and ample supplies for people to get protected before the typical peak of flu season in February.
So far, the number of cases of flu have been low in Washington with only a handful confirmed scattered around the state, said Donn Moyer, a spokesman for the state Department of Health.
Flu season can continue well into spring.
Moyer said people shouldn't be lulled into thinking that influenza has taken a hiatus due to the low number of cases reported thus far.
"If you haven't gotten it yet, now is the time to get a flu shot," Moyer said.
Health officials recommended the immunization for people 6 months of age and up.
People between 2 through 49 years of age who are not pregnant can opt for flu mist or the shot.
Flu symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches and fatigue.
Although many people recover from the illness, it can cause potentially life-threatening complications such as pneumonia.
On average, about 36,000 people die from health complications triggered by the flu each year.
Area clinics and medical groups said they've seen year-over-year increases in the number of people getting flu shots.
Group Health has administered nearly 145,992 doses of flu vaccine this year, compared to 142,271 during last year's entire flu season.
Some 4,500 patients at Edmonds Family Medicine have been immunized, an increase of 1,000 doses over last year.
The number of patients immunized at Providence Physician Group has increased by nearly 13 percent this year, to just more than 14,000 patients.
One of the largest increases in year-over-year immunization rates was reported by The Everett Clinic. The 38,739 patients immunized so far this year is about a 25 percent increase over the 31,036 immunizations given during the entire 2010-11 flu season.
"We had to reorder; we went through our entire allotment," said Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, who tracks influenza issues at The Everett Clinic.
One reason more people have been immunized this year could be that there's multiple manufacturers making the vaccine so there's ample supply, he said.
And federal health officials have simplified the recommendation on who should be immunized. In the past, first-in-line priority was given to those at high risk of health complications from the flu, such as people over 65, and those with asthma or heart disease.
"It's much simpler to say if you're 6 months or older, you need a flu shot," Tu said.
A spot check of area hospitals and clinics shows that the percent of employees have received flu immunizations is higher than the national average of 63 percent for health care workers reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in mid-November.
Here's the results reported by each organization: Group Health, 75 percent; Arlington's Cascade Valley Hospital, 94 percent; Monroe's Valley General Hospital, 78 percent; Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, 85 percent; Swedish/Edmonds, 80 percent; and The Everett Clinic, 91.6 percent.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » DiseasesHealth organizationsImmunizations

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