by Nolan James – Staff Writer
People are dying from the flu. Over 150 people have died so far from the illness in Washington State alone. While the reports are constantly being updated, the last data published was from Feb. 3, in which there were 151 reported deaths from the influenza virus, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
According to this report, of the 151 individuals, no one between the ages of five and 24 have died from the virus. Nearly 80 percent of the individuals who have died were of the age group 65 and above, but officials say the disease can still be a threat to younger people, especially infants. Since 2010, in Washington, over 800 flu deaths have occurred.
Officials at the Washington State Department of Health state that the best way to protect yourself from disease is by getting vaccinated. However, in recent years vaccinations have become rather controversial. In regard to this controversy, The Department of Health has claimed, “hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines over the past 50 years, and there has been extensive research supporting the safety of flu vaccines.”
Despite this claim, many individuals claim that vaccination can have damaging side effects. However, according to the Department of Health, the only side effects of the flu vaccine are that of “any medical product”, and can cause “soreness, redness, and/or swelling from the shot, headache, fever, nausea, muscle aches,” and sometimes fainting. They also mention, however, that a nerve-damaging disease, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), has been connected to the vaccine, though “fewer than 1 or 2 cases of GBS per one million people vaccinated” have been proven, and GBS “also, rarely, occurs after the flu illness.”
The Department of Health did give symptoms to look for, such as “a high fever, behavior changes, or signs of a severe allergic reaction.” They also said that “life threatening allergic
reactions to the flu shot are rare. These signs would most likely happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccine is given.” Another worry addressed is that of whether the vaccine can give you the flu, which the Department of Health claims it cannot. They also say that anyone past 6 months of age should get an annual flu shot.
If cost is an issue, the vaccination is also free for children 18 and under. Other ways to protect yourself and others, according to the Department of Health, is to “covering you cough/proper hand washing and staying home from school or work when you are sick.”