A woman in her 50s from the Tri-City area is the state's first confirmed flu-related fatality of the season.
The woman's name and hometown weren't released.
Dr. Amy Person, health officer of the Benton-Franklin Health District, said the woman had "some chronic medical conditions that would have put her at a higher risk for more serious complications from influenza." She wasn't immunized, Person said.
"Obviously, people with risk factors are more susceptible. But usually every few years we'll have the (flu-related) death of someone who's otherwise healthy," Person said.
She urged Tri-Citians to get flu vaccinations, which are available at many doctor's offices, clinics, pharmacies, and through the health district.
At this point, flu activity in the area is relatively low, Person said, adding that there's still time for people to become protected before the peak hits.
Health officials said everyone age 6 months and older should get vaccinated.
Young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and those with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease especially at risk.
"Getting a yearly flu vaccine is the first and most important thing you can do to protect yourself and avoid spreading the flu to others, especially people who may be more vulnerable," said state Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes in a statement.
"There are many options of the flu vaccine this year. Ask your health care provider about which one is best for you and your family," she said.
As many as 36,000 people a year die from the flu, according to information from the local health district.
To arrange a flu shot through the Benton-Franklin Health District, call 460-4200 for Kennewick and 547-9737 for Pasco.
-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @saraTCHerald