Health providers brace for flu season

As the prime flu season sets in, local public health officials are recommending that people take care to avoid spreading sickness or catching the flu themselves.

“This is a time more and more people get the flu, so our message is for everyone to get their flu shot,” said Grays Harbor Public Health Manager Kristina Alnajjar. “Not everyone can get the shot, so for those who can, it’s important they do so to protect the most vulnerable who can’t.”

Alnajjar said January and February are typically the peak flu season, and reminded that people should also wash their hands, cover their mouth when coughing and stay home if they do feel ill.

Local health providers and school districts contacted by The Daily World have seen some, but not an overwhelming number of cases so far.

Aberdeen High school reported a decent increase in students with respiratory issues and flu-type symptoms, and the new walk-in clinic at Swanson’s Supermarket in Aberdeen said it has been fairly busy since opening several weeks ago, with 10 to 15 people with a cold or the flu each day.

At Summit Pacific Medical Center in Elma, 103 patients tested positive for the flu in 2017, with a majority of those being diagnosed in December according to Communications Director Lauren Day.

“We are definitely beginning to see an uptick in those presenting flu symptoms,” said Day in an email. “Last year we saw more flu cases early in the season (September to December)…. However, the number of positive flu cases began to quickly decline in January of last year whereas this year we expect to see the opposite situation.”

Grays Harbor Community Hospital has had a significant decline in flu patients, but Public Relations and Marketing Director Nancee Long said this could be a sign that the spread of the flu may be making its way from more populated areas of Washington.

“Last year at this time, we were seeing 10 or 15 a day,” said Long. “It’s a good possibility that it’s heading in this direction, it generally comes down the I-5 corridor.”

Nurse Carrie Lisle from the Ocosta School District said she has yet to come across any students with the flu.

The Grays Harbor Public Health Department sent out a press release Wednesday advising people to be cautious during the flu season, and reminds that flu shots are available at most local pharmacies.