At least 17 people in Pierce County, most of them seniors, have died from the flu during the current influenza season that health officials have declared an epidemic.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department reported in January that the flu fatalities occurred primarily among people 60 to 90 years old who had underlying health issues. The only non-adult victim was a 10-year-old.
In King County, eight flu deaths reported as of January made the current flu season there moderate to severe, according to public health officials.
The illness is resulting in flu-related hospitalizations and deaths at a much higher rate than last year in Pierce County. During the 2015-2016 season, 15 Pierce County residents died of flu, and 25 such deaths occurred in the 2014-2015 season.
Flu seasons generally are from October to April.
The current 2016-17 flu season â€œis shaping up to be especially bad for elderly people,â€ said Matthew Rollosson, a nurse epidemiologist at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.
In addition to seniors, people who health officials advise are most at-risk of serious complications from the flu are children younger than 5 years old, pregnant women, and anyone who has diabetes, asthma or other chronic conditions.
The best protection against the flu is washing your hands regularly and getting a yearly flu shot.
Flu activity typically peaks between December and March, but it can last as late as May.