If this is you, stay home.
If this is you, stay home. Photographee.eu/Shutterstock.com

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Washington state is in the midst of flu outbreak. Everyone, everywhere is sick, just getting over being sick, or about to get sick. Check your out-of-office notices, read the headlines, look across the breakfast table: aching, coughing, miserable people are everywhere.

Things have gotten so bad that health officials have taken to using words like "severe" and "vigorous" to describe the current outbreak. A spokesperson for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department told the News Tribune flu cases in the state are "now at an epidemic level."

The latest report from the Washington State Health Department shows 24 lab-confirmed deaths from influenza as of December 31, with 12 in Pierce County alone and another eight in King County. The majority were people over 65—an age group with an elevated risk of complications from the virus.

State health department spokesperson Paul Throne told King 5 that while the flu reaches the "epidemic" level every year, this year has been particularly bad. He told the Times it will probably get worse: “I think we could easily see many more deaths. It’s early still. It’s coming on quickly, earlier and stronger that it has for the last couple years.”

Emergency rooms are reportedly slammed with patients reporting flu-like symptoms:

Around King County, the number of flu cases at emergency rooms is the highest it's been in five years, says the county's head epidemiologist Dr. Jeff Duchin, and Snohomish County says the number of hospitalizations has been doubling each week since early December.

In Thurston County, the overloaded emergency rooms prompted health officials at Providence St. Peter Hospital to activate a 'Disaster Medical Control Center' for the first time in ten years.

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It's an emergency measure that's usually only used during mass casualty incidents.

The CDC has this handy fact sheet on flu symptoms, how the virus spreads (easily and with great skill!) and how long you are a walking health hazard (a day before symptoms begin and five to seven days after you get sick.) If you're not sick yet, consider getting the flu shot. Here's how to find a clinic near you.

All this is to say: IF YOU ARE SICK STAY HOME. It's better for everyone if you are crashed out on the couch sleeping off a fever, or binging on The OA until you finally realize how boring it is, than pretending like you're not hacking away at your desk and leaving your infectious droplets everywhere. We can all hear you, [redacted].

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