Flu season ramping up in Western Washington

The flu has arrived in Western Washington and doctors are urging people to get their flu shots as soon as possible.  The state health department reports six flu-related deaths so far.  And a national flu predictor shows flu activity in the Seattle area spiking in the next four weeks.

“We know that in the community, flu vaccination rates are around 30 percent,” UW Medicine Infection Control Medical Director Dr. John Lynch said.  “So there's both the people actively deciding not to get vaccinated, but then there are a lot of people who just don't get vaccinated.”

The flu shot takes two weeks to fully kick in and doctors say there’s no time to waste.

The Columbia University Flu Predictor uses public health data and past trends to predict flu activity.  It shows the flu activity is expected to spike in the coming weeks and on January 27, with more than 2,600 flu cases.

“We all recognize the flu vaccine isn't the perfect vaccine, but it is the best tool we have,” Dr. Lynch said.  “Even if it is 20 percent effective, that counts as a large number of prevented infections, and a large number of hospital visits.”

The past two years, the flu mist was deemed ineffective, but Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it's back on the table this year for people who can't get the shot for medical reasons.  Whether you get the shot or the mist, the CDC recommends it for everyone six months and older.