SEATTLE -- The flu is spiking across Washington.
Emergency rooms are packed with sick people.
The state Health Department says it's confirmed at least 17 deaths related to the virus.
But they say the real number is a lot higher, because most flu deaths are not reported.
At Kidspace Childcare Center, children may be too young to understand the flu, but most of them know what it feels like. With dozens of children so close to each other, the flu isn't far away.
“We had like five kids in a classroom of 15. Ten kids out on a day -- that was huge,” director Michelle Bretz said.
This year's virus is very aggressive, In fact, the King County Health Department says it's shaping up to be the worst since the pandemic in 2009.
“We are seeing vigorous activity, pretty high levels compared to previous seasons,” Dr. Jeff Duchin with King County Health said.
Although the current vaccine is not the best match for H3N2, the dominant strain, experts say it's no excuse to skip the shot.
“Even if you get a little bit of protection it’s better than nothing,” Duchin said.
There are also free apps for the androids and iPhones that allow you to track the flu in your area on any given week.
The CDC’s Fluview is a popular app and the Flu Defender identifies symptoms and vaccine sites near you.
“The flu is not a trivial illness, it kills many Americans and it causes hospitalizations for many others,” Duchin said.
That's why Kidspace takes the virus seriously.
“We ask the parents to wash their hands with their kids on arrival in the morning.” Bretz said.
It’s about forming good habits early. If any of the kids get sick, the center says they stay home another 24 hours after the symptoms go away.