Flu Hits Oregon Emergency Rooms

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Mon, January 6 2014 at 6:43 PM, Updated: Mon, January 6 2014 at 7:48 PM

New numbers from the Oregon Health Authority show the flu has sent almost 200 people to hospitals in just the Portland Metro area alone (Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties), 81 of them since Christmas. 

The Oregonian reported seven deaths from the flu. However, because Oregon's Public Health Division only tracks pediatric deaths, they could only confirm one death, a 5-year-old boy from Eugene. 

Spike in Emergency Room and Health Clinic Flu Cases 

At Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford, of the patients who visited the emergency room in December and were also tested for the flu, about a third of them came up positive for the virus. Most of the cases were diagnosed in the last week of December.

"Before Christmas we were hardly seeing any flu at all and now we're seeing a number of patients, probably 10 a day coming in with flu-like symptoms," said Dr. Joshua Cott, Director of Emergency Services at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center.

"We just saw a big uptick," said Dr. Mona McArdle who practices at Valley Immediate Care.

"At least 10 [people] a day on one of our slower days," she continued.

H1N1 Most Predominant Flu Strain Right Now

In addition, all but one of the 43 flu cases at Three Rivers Medical Center was H1N1, also known as swine flu. It's the same strain that became a pandemic back in 2009.

"About 98%-99% of the flu that the CDC has typed this year is the H1N1," said Dr. Cott.

While H1N1 has gained notoriety because of the pandemic in 2009, doctors say it's no more dangerous than other flu strains.

"The difference a few years ago is that there were very few people if any that had any resistance to this [H1N1]."

The current flu vaccine does protect against the H1N1 virus, the concern is for people who haven't been vaccinated as well as
old and young populations.

"The H1N1 was a little bit different in that it seemed to affect some of the middle age ranges," said Dr. McArdle.

Doctors Encouraging People to Get a Flu Shot

While it takes two weeks for a flu vaccination to kick in, the flu season extends until March.

"If you don't get vaccinated, you have about a 1-in-20 chance of getting the flu and if you do get vaccinated you have a 1-in-100 chance of getting the flu," said Dr. Cott.

Even so, he said no vaccine is 100% effective. There's always a possibility someone who had a flu shot could still come down with the virus.

Doctor's say the flu kills between 20,000-30,000 people a year in the United States.          

One more piece of information, you're contagious 24-hours before showing any symptoms. So doctors say the best prevention? Get your flu shot and wash your hands frequently.

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About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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