Experts expect long, nasty flu season | Health

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Experts expect long, nasty flu season

We're barely into this year's flu season and already the state Department of Health has reported three deaths related to influenza.

Two King County adult and a child from Pierce County have already died, and the number of people sick from the flu is on the rise in Snohomish County.

Getting the flu is a miserable experience, and if it hasn't already hit your house or office or child's school, experts say you should brace yourself, because it may be coming.

"We are having an early influenza season. And it's a serious influenza season and we've had a definite up tick in hospitalization," said Tim McDonald with the Snohomish Health District.

So far this season, Snohomish County hospitals have treated 52 people for the flu. During the same time last year, that number was four. It was zero the year before.

"It's a new strain, new to our population," McDonald said.

The increasing flu numbers aren't unique to the Pacific Northwest, either. The east coast, especially the southeast, has also been slammed. The flu will continue to spread into March.

Chances are you will come into contact with the flu bug at some point, but there are ways to avoid getting sick.

"I would urge everyone, not just for themselves, but for their friends, neighbors and relatives and their children to get vaccinated right away," McDonald said.

In addition to getting vaccinated, everyone should make sure to wash their hands often and keep sanitizer handy. And those who do get sick should stay home so they don't spread those germs to anyone else.

There is still plenty of vaccine available, and you can get it from your pharmacist, doctor's office or local health district. The vaccine costs about $15 for kids and $30 for adults, but in many cases you can apply for a reduced fee.