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Oregon's flu (sneeze!) season (cough!) still considered 'moderate'

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Flu vaccine makers have shipped about 1.1 million doses to Oregon for this year's flu season, which is hitting other parts of the nation hard. So far, Oregon reports a 'moderate' flu season.Oregon’s flu season appears to be about normal, even though other parts of the nation have been hit hard by the rapidly spreading virus.

Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division reported that the state’s flu activity level was at moderate levels, even though more people are reporting flu symptoms.

Across the state, the agency reported, 2.8 percent of outpatient visits were for flu symptoms. Symptoms include fever of more than 100 degrees, plus cough or sore throat. When the percentage tops 1.5 percent of visits, flu season has started.

“While we are seeing some uptick of flu, particularly H3N2, we are not seeing the rates that other states, particularly those on the East Coast and in the South, are experiencing,” said Dr. Richard Leman, public health physician in the division’s Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section. “We can make sure things don’t get worse by taking action now. People can protect themselves and their families by getting vaccinated and washing their hands regularly.”

In the Portland area, 65 people have been hospitalized with the flu virus since Oct. 1. Most of the flu has been seasonal type A, which matches this year’s vaccine. Senior citizens have been hit the hardest; 46 percent of those hospitalized were 65 and older.

About two dozen children have died because of the flu this year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but none in Oregon.

Oregon’s 2012-13 rate of influenza-like illness hasn’t approached that of 2009’s H1N1 pandemic, which reached about 10 percent of outpatient visits in Oregon, but much of the current season is still to come.

Flu vaccine manufacturers have shipped more than 1.1 million doses to Oregon this year. More than 700,000 doses have been administered, according to data reported to Oregon’s ALERT Immunization Information System.

“People can still get their flu vaccination if they haven’t done so already, and we encourage everyone to do so to protect themselves, their friends, family members, and co-workers,” Leman said.

For more information about flu prevention, visit www.flu.oregon.gov ; to find a flu vaccination site near you, call SafeNet at 2-1-1.