3 flu deaths already reported in Washington

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Flu activity has picked up across Washington, especially in Western Washington, the state Health Department said Thursday.

A Pierce County boy and two older adults in King County were the first influenza deaths in the state this season, the department said. The boy, who was younger than 12, was the first death, earlier in December. A man in his 80s and a woman in her 70s in King County died in the past two weeks.

An average of two children and 25 adults die of the flu each year in the state. The worst flu season recently was 2009-2010 when 5 children and 95 adults died in Washington, department spokeswoman Julie Graham said.

Flu is common, but the only confirmed cases that doctors are required to report are deaths. And those don't include flu-related deaths. The flu often makes a person susceptible to another illness, such as pneumonia, which is listed as the cause of death, Graham said.

The health department monitors the flu through cooperating labs that share samples to identify what kind of flu is circulating and anything unusual.

The deaths were a reminder for people who haven't had a vaccination to protect themselves.

The department has urged everyone from 6-months-old on up to have an annual flu shot. The shots are especially important for people 65 and older or who are vulnerable because of medical conditions.

This year's vaccine was well-matched to the current strains, the department said.

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