UPDATE: Start of flu season already deadly in Snohomish County

The peak of the flu season is expected to hit earlier this year, than it did last year

UPDATE: A fifth person in Snohomish County died from the flu, health officials said Thursday. The elderly woman from Everett died earlier this week.

Snohomish County also has its first confirmed case of the mumps. A child from Everett tested positive after being exposed to the virus in South King County. There are now 117 cases of the virus in King County.

ORIGINAL TEXT: The start of the flu season has already proven deadly in the North Sound.

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Doctors say it's important that people take the flue seriously, as the peak of the flu season for Washington, according to the Columbia University flu predictor website, is January 15.

According to the Herald, four people died of influenza in the last week in Snohomish County alone.

Those who died include a man and woman - both in their 80s - in Arlington, a woman in her 50s in Everett and another woman in her 80s.

According to the paper, all had underlying health conditions that made them more vulnerable to the flu.

The flu vaccine is still available.

Shots are recommended for adults, teens, pregnant women and children starting at 6 months of age.

"So by getting your flu vaccine you're not only being good to yourself but your neighbor and loved ones,” said Dr. Shanna Levine of Mount Sinai Hospital.

According to the paper, 289 people tested positive for the flu last week at the Everett Clinic.

It can be especially dangerous for children under two, senior citizens and people with heart disease or diabetes.

Doctors advise if you are sick you should stay home to prevent the flu from spreading, and as people head back to work and school after the holidays next week, hand washing is imperative.

KIRO7 reporter Maria Guerrero talked with Columbia University researchers who designed the flu predictor.

Researchers use an algorithm Google came up with to make predictions.

It looks at online searches related to flu to get a better sense of flu activity in local areas.

The flu shot takes two weeks in your system to offer the maximum defense and can lessen your symptoms even if you do get sick.

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