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OLYMPIA — The 2022-2023 flu season was the deadliest in five years, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

The DOH says 262 Washington residents, including 257 adults and five children, were reported to have died from the flu between Oct. 1, 2022 and April 29, 2023. That is about ten times the number of flu-related deaths that occurred in the 2021-2022 season, which saw 26 reported flu deaths of 25 adults and one child.

DOH Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said that illness precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic kept flu cases low, but now that folks are back around others, the flu vaccine is the best protection against serious illness.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said this year's flu vaccine reduced risk of influenza A-related hospitalization among children by nearly three-quarters and among adults by nearly half. 

“The flu vaccine is your best protection against this serious disease. Even if you get the flu, if you’ve been vaccinated typically your illness is milder and you aren’t as likely to need to go to the hospital," Shah said. 

Community members most likely to be affected by severe flu disease are people over the age of 65, people who are immunocompromised, children under the age of five, pregnant people and people with chronic health conditions.

The DOH says that as of the end of April, flu activity was minimal in Washington state. Flu activity rose at the end of October and peaked by the end of November.