Nearly-finished flu season ‘bad for elderly’

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 “is shaping up to be especially bad for elderly people,” 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.