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Flu hits Peninsula hard, early

Sequim Gazette - 12/25/2019

Flu season has arrived early on the North Olympic Peninsula, health officials said.

Influenza activity has ratcheted up in Clallam and Jefferson counties well ahead of a typical flu season, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer and interim Clallam County health officer.

"It's really picking up, especially in Clallam County," Locke said on Dec. 19.

"Clallam County is sort of ahead of Jefferson, and maybe even Kitsap. It's definitely in an upswing in all three counties, and, like the national pattern, it is predominately influenza B."

Nine out of 10 flu seasons in the Pacific Northwest occur after Christmas. Locke said. A flu season generally peaks from late January to early March, he added.

Given the early start to the 2019-2020 flu season, Locke encouraged the public to "be cautious" this holiday season if they have family members with flu-like symptoms.

Common flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials encourage that people get vaccinated, wash hands often, cover coughs and stay home from work of school when sick.

Locke said he was unaware of any flu deaths on the North Olympic Peninsula.

The state Department of Health reported eight laboratory-confirmed flu deaths statewide as of Dec. 14, none of which involved a Clallam or Jefferson county patient.

Locke said influenza B is unpredictable in its severity.

The current vaccine covers two strains of influenza A and two strains of influenza B, Locke said.

School officials say they have been hit by the early-arriving flu bug.

Chris Ferrier, Crescent High School's athletic coordinator and boys basketball coach, said the team had missed several practices and games because of illnesses.

Fourteen players have been affected.

"We've had kids with nasty head and chest colds," Ferrier said last week.

Other schools in Clallam and Jefferson counties have reported sports players out with flu.