If you or someone in your household or workplace is ill, there’s a chance it’s the flu.
Even though the departments of public health in King and Pierce counties reported that cases of the flu were not above expected predictions or higher than those reported last year, it is flu season after all; and the Washington State Department of Health reported on Friday that “flu activity is on the rise.”
The most common symptoms of the virus will sound familiar to anyone who’s ever had it: fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, chills, diarrhea and vomiting.
Most of the time, otherwise healthy people who contract the flu can recover at home, the state Department of Health says in a fact sheet on its website.
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The simple prescription is basically to stay home, rest, wash your hands frequently and avoid contact with others. Most people should recover with two weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC.)
“Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. If you must leave home, for example to get medical care, wear a face mask if you have one, or cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Wash your hands often to keep from spreading flu to others,” the state’s Department of Health fact sheet advises.
However, people with flu symptoms who are under five, over 65, pregnant, or in another high risk group should contact their medical provider as early as possible for care and to discuss the possibility of starting an antiviral treatment.
Early contact with a provider is urged because the antivirals work best when started within two days of the onset of symptoms, according to the CDC.
Additionally, the CDC says, children who display the following symptoms should be taken to the doctor:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:
- Being unable to eat
- Has trouble breathing
- Has no tears when crying
- Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
In adults, seek help if they have:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
The CDC, state Department of Health and the public health departments of Pierce and King counties strongly recommended that people who have not yet gotten a flu shot this season do so.
“It’s not too late and you should get one,” said Hilary Karasz, a spokeswoman for Public Health Seattle & King County.
On Friday, the state health department reported that 29 people had died during the 2017-2018 flu season and that there had been 26 outbreaks of flu-like illness at long term care facilities, such as nursing homes, during the same period.
Nevertheless, those numbers are not alarming, public health experts say. In fact, so far this year many counties’ numbers are down from the same period last year when the flu hit some areas particularly hard.
“From what we are seeing at this early point, things are not looking quite as bad as last year,” said Steve Metcalf, a spokesman for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. “The caveat is that it’s preliminary and things can change dramatically, but we’re hoping the trend continues.”