Hospitalizations and clinic visits for flu remain high for Tri-County area

February 8, 2013

The number of people being hospitalized or visiting clinics for influenza symptoms in the Portland area remained high for the third straight week.

Between 55 and 65 people were hospitalized during each of the last three weeks in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties, the most collectively since 2010. Most of the people hospitalized are older than 65. No reports of pediatric influenza deaths have been reported in Oregon. The three metro-area Oregon counties continue to receive reports of illness in long-term care facilities and absenteeism in schools, but the pace of reports is slowing.

When the Multnomah County Health Officer sees the high number of hospitalizations and outpatient visits like have been reported for the past few weeks, it usually indicates the influenza season may be peaking. The Health Officer won’t know for sure for a couple of weeks, but the community may be turning the corner on influenza for this year.

However, many people will still get influenza over the next couple of months. And norovirus is still circulating in the community.

Norovirus and influenza are different viruses that cause very different illnesses. People with influenza experience fevers, chills, body aches, sore throat and coughing. Symptoms of norovirus are vomiting, diarrhea and a feeling of unusual tiredness. People who become ill with both flu and norovirus, or become ill with one soon after another, can become much more sick then they would be with either alone.

Fortunately, the influenza vaccine remains a good match this year for the viruses that are spreading locally. Influenza vaccine is still available and continues to be recommended for everyone older than 6 months. You also should be familiar with the symptoms of influenza. Early treatment with antiviral medications can help. For more information on symptoms and when to see a doctor, visit the Health Department's website.

You can still protect your family:

  • Get an influenza shot. The vaccine reduces your risk of getting sick from influenza and from spreading the virus to others. Because influenza viruses change from year-to-year, it is important to get vaccinated every year, preferably in the fall before influenza season starts.
  • Cover your cough and sneezes. Influenza is mostly spread by people coughing or sneezing on you! Cough or sneeze into your arm or a tissue - and remember to toss the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face. While the virus doesn’t live long on surfaces like doorknobs or hand rails, it can survive up to 12 hours and spread that way.
  • Stay home if you become sick -- at least 24 hours after a fever.
  • People who are pregnant, younger than age 2, or older than age 65, and who become ill with flu symptoms should call their health provider right away to see if they can begin antiviral medication.

For information on how to prevent the flu or find where to get the flu shot:, visit  the Oregon Health Authority's website or call 211.