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Free flu vaccine still available at local health department

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"This is a tragic reminder of how serious the flu can be for some people", said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel.

According to the CDC, the best way for parents to protect their children is to get them vaccinated every year.

So far this season, influenza has been a contributing factor in 151 deaths in Washington. Of the almost 3,000 deaths, 78.3 percent were people ages 65 and older, totaling 2,271.

"Unfortunately, because of the surveillance data we know that the most commonly circulating strain of "B" is the one that was in the children's vaccine and not the adult vaccine", Walters said. Last season, health officials reported 33 flu-related deaths.

Though the northern border near Canada and a little bit along the West Coast show some signs of easing, there are "likely many more weeks to go", CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said.

The flu virus is highly contagious, so if you are experiencing any symptoms, you need to stay home and make every effort to avoid contact with others for at least 24 hours after the symptoms have stopped.

Until last week, the dominant flu virus in Arkansas was H3N2, a type A virus that usually causes more illness than other viruses and mutates faster, making vaccines less effective against it.

Harris said flu activity this season has dramatically increased.

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A free flu shot clinic will be held Wednesday afternoon at the Citizen's Center, 10 Welcome St., from 3 to 6 p.m., for uninsured city children ages 1 and up and uninsured adults.

It's not too late to get a flu shot, but McMahan suggested people first call their doctor or pharmacist to check availability.

Oklahoma is one of several states reporting widespread influenza activity, with children being especially hit hard. OR and Hawaii, the exceptions, both recorded regional activity for the fifth week of the year. That ties the highest level seen in the USA during swine flu in 2009. "That's a signal of how very intense this flu season has been". H3N2 commonly leads to more severe illness and more hospitalizations, according to Schuchat. These numbers do not include all the people who have had the flu, as many do not see a doctor when sick. This rate is higher than the anticipated 7.3% pneumonia- or flu-related deaths estimated for the week.

Experts are saying the rate of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths is expected to continue to rise throughout the nation toward the end of the 2017-18 season. "It's better than nothing", she said.

The CDC said they believe in the USA, a better indicator is the vaccine's effectiveness previous year.

Effectiveness was rated at 67 percent for H1N1 and 42 percent for influenza B strains.

Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit against Michigan-based Memorial Healthcare after the hospital rescinded a job offer to a potential employee who would not get a flu vaccine for religious reasons, the agency announced.

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