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The flu is here and a patient is already in ICU. Health officials urging vaccinations

Flu shots the Americans way at Kadlec

Dr. Dany Ghannam, director of ICU at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, tells about the importance of getting a flu vaccine following last year's deadly flu season. Two Tri-City Americans hockey players took part in the vaccination event.
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Dr. Dany Ghannam, director of ICU at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, tells about the importance of getting a flu vaccine following last year's deadly flu season. Two Tri-City Americans hockey players took part in the vaccination event.

Getting a shot isn’t exactly fun, but Parker AuCoin was happy to step up.

He and his Tri-City Americans teammates spend a lot of time together, and protecting himself against the flu also protects them, he said.

“It’s important for us to stay healthy and not infect the team and the staff and the fans,” AuCoin told the Herald. “It might not seem like a big deal for just one person (to get vaccinated), but it’s about keeping everyone safe.”

So AuCoin volunteered to get his annual flu shot Monday at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, as part of an event to encourage people across the Tri-Cities to get vaccinated.

Fellow Americans player Blake Stevenson also submitted to a needle stick, and team mascot Winger was on hand for moral support.

Winger had already gotten his flu shot a few weeks earlier.

Flu already is present in the Tri-Cities.

Kadlec has a patient in the ICU with the illness, and other cases also have been reported.

“We can all do our part to have a healthier community by getting our flu shots early so that we can obtain that full immunity before the flu season really hits the Tri-Cities,” said Jill Wilson, a nurse who’s in charge of caregiver health at Kadlec. “It’s the right thing to do and a pretty simple thing to do.”

Last winter, about 80,000 people across the U.S. died from flu.

The Tri-Cities saw 20 deaths, making it the worst local flu season in memory.

Flu season generally starts locally this month, peaking around January.

Vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older.

The flu shot can have some side effects, such as a sore arm, red eyes and a runny nose, but they’re mild and go away quickly, said Dr. Dany Ghannam, director of the ICU at Kadlec.

It’s a myth that the flu shot causes the flu, he said.

Getting vaccinated is your best protection against the illness, health officials say.

It can keep you from getting sick altogether and make the illness less severe if you do still contract it, they say.

Getting vaccinated also protects people around you who may be at higher risk for complications, such as children, the elderly, pregnant woman and people with weakened immune systems, officials say.

Along with getting vaccinated, people should wash their hands frequently and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth to stay healthy, officials say. They also should cover their coughs and stay home when sick to avoid infecting others.

Flu shots are available at pharmacies and health care provider offices in the Tri-Cities. The Benton-Franklin Health District typically has doses for children and adults, but still is waiting on its supply of adult vaccines to come in.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529
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