March 19, 2019 9:45 a.m.
While winter officially ends Tuesday, influenza season is still in full swing for much of Oregon, including in Douglas County.
Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer from the Douglas Public Health Network said reports indicate a potent late flu season with widespread flu activity. Dannenhoffer said Mercy Medical Center has reported a higher than average number of positive flu tests over the past few weeks. He said the DPHN is also aware of a number of cases of influenza in area nursing homes. Additionally, several schools are reporting elevated levels of students absent. Dannenhoffer said DPHN has been in contact with both nursing home and school personnel and appropriate control measures are in place.
DPHN said flu is a virus that causes mild to severe respiratory illness. In severe cases it can lead to hospitalization and even death. People at higher risk of severe illness include children, adults older than 65, pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions or weak immune systems.
Dannenhoffer said that vaccination is the best protection against the flu available. He said people can’t get the flu from the vaccine, and while it may not provide 100% protection, it can still lessen the severity of illness. The release said the Centers for Disease Control recommends vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older. In addition, DPHN strongly encourages health care workers to get vaccinated as immunized health care workers help prevent the spread of influenza in health care settings, particularly among hospitalized patients at high risk for flu-related complications.
The DPHN release said the strains of flu currenting circulating is primarily type A and appear to be well matched with this year’s vaccine. It is pretty effective and still readily available from many health care providers and pharmacies and is covered for free by most insurances, according to the release. Those without insurance can get the vaccine for just $19.99 at Costco Pharmacy.
Dannenhoffer said to further prevent the spread of the virus, those sick with flu-like symptoms should stay home and limit contact with others.
More information is available from the Oregon Health Authority at: https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DISEASESCONDITIONS/COMMUNICABLEDISEASE/DISEASESURVEILLANCEDATA/INFLUENZA/pages/index.aspx.