Flu is now widespread in Washington state with 20 deaths reported

The flu continues to spread statewide and 20 people have died so far this season, four of them in Pierce County.

Health officials are warning people to get a flu shot if they haven’t already and remember to cover your cough, properly wash your hands and stay home from work or school if you’re sick.

Washington state is now one of 36 states reporting widespread influenza activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The number of patients testing positive for the flu has increased 25 percent in the last three weeks, CDC said.

Sixteen outbreaks have been reported in long-term care facilities and hospitals are seeing an uptick in people coming in with flu-like symptoms.

In Pierce County, 45 people ranging in age from 4 to 93 have been hospitalized with influenza-related illnesses.

All four people who died in Pierce County were 64 or older, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

Other flu-related deaths have been reported in King, Snohomish, Chelan, Kitsap, Spokane and Whatcom counties.

Although the flu is considered widespread in the state, health officials said the 2016-2017 season was the worst in nearly a decade with 278 deaths.

The year before, there were 157 deaths.

Flu season typically lasts from October through March.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653