TACOMA, Wash.—A Pierce County man in his 40s died Oct. 22 in the hospital from flu-related complications. He had chronic health concerns that increased his risk for complications. This is the first flu-related death in the 2018-2019 flu season.
“This death is a reminder of the importance of early vaccination, especially for those with diabetes, obesity, asthma, and other risk factors for influenza-associated complications,” said Public Health Nurse Matthew Rollosson. “Immunization against influenza not only protects you, it also reduces the risk of influenza in the community,” he said.
Every year, thousands of people across the country die because of the flu. In the 2017-2018 flu season in Pierce County, 31 people died from flu-related complications. The 2016-2017 season had 50 flu-related deaths, as many as the previous three seasons combined: 15 in 2015-2016, 25 in 2014-2015, and 10 in 2013-2014. Flu season is typically October to April but can last longer.
No vaccine is 100 percent effective. If you get a flu shot and still get sick, the vaccine can reduce your symptoms, their duration, and the chance you will spread the virus. It can take up to two weeks for the flu vaccine to become effective.
What are flu symptoms?
The virus is much than a bad cold. The flu can cause days of fever, cough, sore throat, and body aches. In some cases, the flu leads to death, even for healthy people.
How does the flu spread?
Droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk carry the virus. These droplets can infect a person directly or through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. Be sure to:
- Wash your hands often with soap or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your cough or sneeze.
- Stay home if you’re sick.
What are the side effects of a flu shot?
Every year millions of people get flu vaccines, which public health experts carefully monitor. Most people get a flu shot with no problem. Side effects include soreness, redness, tenderness, or swelling at the spot of injection. These side effects are mild and short-lived, especially when compared to symptoms from a bad case of the flu. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu.
When should I see a doctor?
See a healthcare provider for an evaluation if:
- Fever greater than 100.4 degrees that’s lasted more than four days (fevers may be intermittent).
- Fever that went away but has returned two or more days later.
- Coughing up mucus tinged with blood.
- Rattling chest sounds when taking a deep breath.
- Fainting spells, dizziness and/or severe dry mouth.
- Urinating less (or babies have less than three wet diapers per 24 hours).
- You are pregnant (pregnant women should seek immediate care if flu symptoms are present rather than making an appointment at an OB office).
- People younger than age 5 or older than age 65. People with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, cancer, etc. or other high-risk groups for complications from the flu.
When should I call 911 or go to an emergency room?
Seek emergency medical attention if you have:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing.
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen.
- Bluish or gray skin color.
- Severe or persistent vomiting.
- Not waking up or not interacting.
- Sudden dizziness.
- Unable to talk in full sentences.
- Children who are so irritable that they do not want to be held.
Where can I get a flu shot?
You can get a flu shot at many local pharmacies. Also, check with your healthcare provider about the vaccine. Learn more about where to get the vaccine and other flu facts at www.tpchd.org/flu.
About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment to protect public health. We are one of roughly 220 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at www.tpchd.org.