VANCOUVER, Wa. – Clark County paramedics are taking the extra step of wearing masks on every medical call to protect themselves and their patients from the spread of the flu.

If nine percent of people in Clark County have the flu, that means its 'flu season,” said Clark County EMS Training Captain Eric Simukka. He says those numbers have now climbed into the mid to upper 40s.

While those numbers have climbed that high in the past, what makes this different is the severity of the strain, he said.

“It is rare. I don’t recall ever putting this mask rule into place in the past," he said. "The numbers are high but the severity has also increased from what we are seeing.”

He says crews go on several calls where people have flu-like symptoms. While the masks aren’t certain to stop the flu, he says they are another line of defense.

“It’s a work in progress, it’s a work around,” he said. “We are doing it first and foremost to protect our responders, and we want to protect the families they are going home to, but we also want to protect the patients. If someone has a compromised immune system, we don’t want to make that worse.”

He says the flu season does last a couple more months and it’s never too late to get your flu shot. He says the elderly and the young are most susceptible to the flu.