Prepare for flu season in the Tri-Cities. Here’s how

The Tri-Cities isn’t yet in the midst of peak flu season.

But, it’s coming — and now is the time to protect yourself and those around you by getting a flu shot, the area’s top public health official said.

“We recommend that everyone six months and older get a flu shot,” said Dr. Amy Person, health officer of the Benton-Franklin Health District.

“We stress it for people in the highest risk categories, but every year some flu deaths happen in people who are healthy and have no risk factors,” she said. “The flu doesn’t discriminate.”

Those at greater risk for complications are young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions.

Flu shots are widely available in the Tri-Cities, including through the health district, doctor’s offices and pharmacies.

The shot takes about two weeks to provide full protection, and it will last throughout flu season, Person said.

In the Tri-Cities, flu season typically peaks after the first of the year. However, some years it reaches its height earlier.

“The only thing predictable about flu is that it’s not predictable,” Person said. “There is some suggestion that this may be another year where, when flu does become active, it’ll be a more significant activity. But only time will tell.”

For most people, the flu is treatable at home. However, it can be serious and even fatal, particularly among those at higher risk.

Washington had 278 confirmed flu deaths in the past year, and medical facilities saw many patients seeking treatment, the state health department reported.

Person said getting the flu shot is the first step in protecting yourself and others. People also should be diligent about hand washing, covering their cough with their arms and not hands, and staying home when sick.

“I sometimes sound like a broken record, but flu can be serious,” Person said. “Every year, our goal is to reduce and eventually eliminate any flu-related deaths.”

To make a flu shot appointment with the health district, call 509-460-4200. For more on the flu in Washington, go to knockoutflu.org.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529, @SaraTCHerald