By Mike De Felice
Special to Kitsap Daily News
PORT ORCHARD — Flu activity is increasing in Kitsap County and in Washington state, but it is too soon to tell if this will be a severe flu season, Kitsap Health District officials reported Thursday.
“The number of positive flu tests and emergency department visits for flu-like illnesses has increased in Kitsap, indicating flu season is underway,” Dr. Susan Turner, the district’s health officer said Thursday.
The peak of flu season varies from year to year but can occur between mid-January and mid-March, according to district statistics.
School students have not been exempt from getting the flu bug.
“We are currently experiencing a large number of flu-cold related absences at our school,” Dave Goodwin, South Kitsap High School’s principal, told families heading into winter break.
Students were asked to remain home if they have a fever above 100.4 degrees or have had a fever for 24 hours prior to coming to school.
“Some south Kitsap County schools have made us aware of absenteeism exceeding 10%,” Turner said. Local schools report such information to the health district on a voluntary basis.
Influenza is a highly contagious disease that can cause severe, even deadly, symptoms. Young children, pregnant women, those 65 years and older or people with certain chronic health conditions are at high risk of flu complications.
During the last flu season, 241 people — including 11 in Kitsap County — died from flu complications, and many more were severely sickened and hospitalized, Washington State Department of Health officials said.
Most flu-related deaths were among older adult populations and people with pre-existing health conditions.
Steps to take to protect against the flu virus include getting a flu shot every year, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or elbow, staying home when sick and washing hands frequently, Turner advised.
It is not too late to get vaccinated, according to officials.
Options to get a flu shot include calling your doctor or a clinic, visiting a local pharmacy, contacting the local health department or going to the Flu Vaccine Finder at https://vaccinefinder.org.
No flu vaccine is 100-percent effective but it can provide moderate protection for about one year and can help reduce the severity of the disease if you do get sick, according to Kitsap Health Department officials.
If you get the flu, stay at home and rest, avoid close contact with others, drink plenty of water or clear liquids to prevent dehydration, and treat a fever and cough with over-the-counter medicines. If your symptoms get worse, call your doctor, advises the Department of Health.