Get a flu shot, no excuses

Influenza. It doesn’t just kill turn-of-the-century men in bowler hats or ninetysomethings who go gentle into that good night. It’s a menace that preys on folks in their prime, many complacent about a flu shot or subject to “you can’t die of a bad cold” thinking.

Well, think again.

The number of positive flu tests began to ratchet up in mid-December, according to the Snohomish County Health District. The predominant strain is H1N1, which often slams younger adults and children, pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions. It’s the same kind of virus that drove the 2009 pandemic, only today there’s a vaccine that protects against it and three other influenza strains.

As The Herald’s Sharon Salyer wrote, a Bothell woman in her 30s died of the flu Saturday, the state’s sixth death in Washington this season, reported by the Washington Department of Health. Three people with the flu are being treated in the intensive care unit of Everett’s Providence Regional Medical Center.

All this, and the region is only one-third of its way up the sick-in-bed arc, according to an Everett Clinic physician. “I think it will be a very severe influenza season,” Dr. Yuan-Po Tu told Salyer.

In Snohomish County, the flu generally peaks in February or a bit later. Fever or chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle or body aches, extreme fatigue: The constellation of symptoms is excruciating. Once it takes hold, patients can use antiviral medications to tamp down the misery and curtail dangerous complications such as pneumonia. But antivirals only do so much and must be administered once a patient presents symptoms. The emphasis needs to be on prevention.

In addition to a flu shot (arguably the best inhibitor of all), ways to reduce transmission include washing your hands, staying at home when you have the crud, and covering your coughs. In the Internet age, it’s also wise to practice safe smart-devicing, disinfecting iPhones and tablets to avoid spreading bugs.

Changing habits and hygienic behavior have benefits, including limiting exposure to crud all year long. And the flu shot, unlike in past years, is readily available. Avoid the litany of excuses. Go get one.

Note: Free flu and whooping-cough shots will be offered for uninsured, low-income adults at two events this week:

Friday, from 10 a.m. to noon at Everett Station, 3201 Smith Ave; and Saturday, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Comcast Arena, 2000 Hewitt Ave.

The immunizations will be provided by the Snohomish Health District and Medical Reserve Corps.

The vaccine also is available at area medical clinics and pharmacies in Snohomish County.