What makes the flu deadly? - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

What makes the flu deadly?

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WASHINGTON - The flu is now widespread in Washington. This season, 20 people across the state have died from the flu, but so far none of the victims have been from Yakima or the Benton and Franklin Counties.

15 people who have died were older than 65. The most deaths have happened in Spokane County with 6 and Pierce County with 4.

In Yakima County, Dr. Tanny Davenport with Signal Health believes the peak of flu season will be in the coming weeks. But what makes the influenza virus turn deadly?

The flu can cause respiratory symptoms, and Dr. Davenport says people die of complications from that and it's usually because of pneumonia.

So if you have the symptoms of the flu, like a fever, cough, and body aches, how can you tell if something is really wrong?

"Changes in their mental status," Dr. Davenport said. "So they're being confused, they're feeling short of breath, or they're not able to eat or drink. Those are all reasons why you should probably say, 'maybe I should see somebody.' Because you might need some IV fluids or in some cases medication." 

Dr. Davenport says if you think you have the flu, just stay home. Make sure to also cover your mouth when you cough, and be careful being around children or the elderly.

He also always recommends getting the flu shot, because some protection is better than none.

Dr. Davenport says there is evidence that getting the flu shot prevents people from needing to be hospitalized, but bottom line: if you have a fever but can eat and drink, don't go to the emergency room or hospital because you can probably just get better on your own.