Local health officials are warning the flu -- likely even the swine flu -- could hit the Valley hard this winter. In fact, the influenza virus could come on strong this fall as more cases of people with flu-like symptoms have been reported recently.
Given the fears about a nationwide and worlwide breakout of swine flu, that's cause for concern.
However, it is not -- NOT -- a reason to panic.
It just means folks need to take reasonable precautions.
"We are not immune. We are not armored," said Harvey Crowder, administrator of the Walla Walla County Public Health Department. "Once the virus starts to spread, if we are not careful with hand washing, covering your cough, staying home ... we will see fairly widespread disease fairly quickly."
That's great advice, but advice that many -- too many -- of us don't always take.
The hand washing and cough covering are easy, but it is the staying home that can be a challenge.
We as a society are so busy that we don't want to waste a minute, let alone a day or two, staying home.
A lot of folks start feeling a little under the weather and figure they can tough it out. A couple of Advil or Tylenol and they can make it through the day.
Given the expected severity of swine flu and the early signs that this could be a rough year for all types of flu, it's just plain foolish not to stay home if you are sick. You are putting yourself at risk of getting sicker, and you will likely be spreading the disease.
A major reason local health officials are concerned about an outbreak now is that school starts today throughout the Walla Walla Valley. With so many kids in close quarters it is easier for flu to spread.
College Place School Superintendent Tim Payne said his district is concerned and has had staff training in an effort to curb the spread of flu.
If teachers or other staff members become aware of sick kids at school -- that will usually mean seeing students with two or more flu symptoms -- temperatures will be taken and children sent home, Payne said.
Again, it is difficult for folks to slow down even when they or their children are sick.
But, bottom line, it's selfish not to.
Now that school has started it is even more important to slow the spread of flu and other diseases.