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Pierce County has its first flu death of the season. Protect yourself and those you love.

A Pierce County woman died from flu on Dec. 2. She was in her 70s and had underlying health conditions. It was Pierce County’s first flu death of the season. We hope it’s the last. You can take simple steps to protect yourself and those you love from respiratory illness. 

It’s respiratory illness season.

In fall and winter, we track 3 respiratory illnesses: flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19. They’re different viruses but have similar symptoms:

  • Cough.
  • Fever.
  • Sore throat.
  • Body aches.

You’re at higher risk to get very sick if you’re:

  • 65 or older.
  • Pregnant.
  • Living with a health condition like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.

Children younger than 5 are at higher risk to get very sick from flu and RSV.

Only a healthcare provider can tell you if you have flu or another illness. If you’re sick, get tested.

Protect yourself and your family.

Get vaccinated. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacy when and where you can get all your doses of vaccine.

  • Flu vaccine is available for people 6 months or older.
  • COVID-19 vaccine is available for people 6 months or older.
  • RSV vaccine is available for people 60 years or older or who are pregnant. RSV antibody protection is available for babies.

Wash your hands frequently. Use soap and warm water.

Cover your coughs and sneezes. If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.

If you’re sick, stay home. If you’re well, avoid places where sick people are.

Every respiratory illness season is different.

COVID-19, flu, and RSV spread remains low in Pierce County, but we have seen a recent uptick in flu and RSV activity. Emergency room visits for both diseases are above thresholds local hospitals set for masking in their facilities.

Most years, flu kills hundreds of people in Washington and sends thousands more to the hospital.

Last year saw a sharp increase in RSV among children and older adults.

And COVID-19 is still with us. We continue to see cases, hospitalizations, and deaths locally and around the state.

How we track flu deaths.

Healthcare providers report flu deaths to us. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines flu death as a person had a positive flu test before they died or their death certificate lists flu as a cause of death. Flu likely contributes to many deaths not counted as flu deaths.

Often, people who die of flu are older or have underlying health conditions. But anyone can get sick with respiratory illness. That could cause your family to miss work, school, or holiday gatherings.

Of course, you should enjoy the holidays and spend time with those you love! But remember, last year Pierce County had 35 reported flu deaths. It makes sense to get vaccinated and practice healthy habits to protect yourself and those you love!

Learn more about fluRSV, and COVID-19.

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