DOH: Across Washington, flu taking a toll on people and medical facilities

Flu Season

Media release from the WA State Department of Health #

For immediate release: January 19, 2018

Contact: Julie Graham, Strategic Commu­ni­ca­tions Office, 360 – 810-1628 

Across Washington, flu taking a toll on people and medical facil­i­ties

What: State health officials issue recom­men­da­tions for when and where to get medical care. 

Why: Flu illness is widespread across the state and many health care facil­i­ties report full waiting rooms and a high demand for treat­ment of flu and other currently circu­lating illnesses. To help ease the crowding at medical facil­i­ties, state health officials want the public to know when and where to seek medical care, and to be on the lookout for warning signs of a poten­tially life-threat­ening situation. 


Unless they require immediate medical atten­tion, people who have symptoms of flu should contact their doctor before going to a hospital emergency room. 

The emergency room should be used for people who are very sick. You should not go to the emergency room if you are only mildly ill. If you have the emergency warning signs of flu sickness (below), you should go to the emergency room. 

In most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. Most people with the flu have mild or moderate illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. 

People who are at higher risk of flu compli­ca­tions should call their health care provider for advice if they get symptoms of the flu. 

These groups include: 

There are some danger/​warning signs that should prompt immediate medical care.

In children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing 
  • Bluish skin color 
  • Not drinking enough fluids 
  • Not waking up or not interacting 
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held 
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough 
  • Fever with a rash 

In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away if an infant has any of these signs: 

  • Being unable to eat 
  • Has trouble breathing 
  • Has no tears when crying 
  • Signif­i­cantly fewer wet diapers than normal 

In adults:

  • Diffi­culty breathing or short­ness of breath 
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen 
  • Sudden dizzi­ness
  • Confu­sion
  • Severe or persis­tent vomiting 
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough 

Recom­men­da­tions for people who don’t have symptoms of flu:

  • Get a flu shot. It’s recom­mended for everyone 6 months of age and older. Flu shots are avail­able at most pharma­cies and health care providers across the state. Washington provides all recom­mended vaccines, including flu vaccine, at no-cost for kids from birth through age 18. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. Use sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available 
  • Cover your cough 
  • Stay away from sick people as much as possible. It’s possible to spread flu before you even know you’re sick, so cover your cough, wash your hands often, and stay home if you begin to feel sick.

Typical symptoms of flu illness include:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/​chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose 
  • Muscle or body aches 
  • Headache
  • Fatigue (tired­ness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults. 

* It’s impor­tant to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever. 

The Depart­ment of Health has a weekly report of influenza activity posted during the flu season. The department’s website is your source for a healthy dose of infor­ma­tion. Also, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.