January 6, 2014

Public health officials say now is still an excellent time to get the flu shot. Influenza is currently widespead in our community and causing serious illness even in healthy people.

As of mid-December, more than 800,000 people in Oregon, or about one-third of the population, have gotten their flu vaccine. But there have been at least 179 influenza-related flu hospitalizations in the Tri-County area. The  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the people most vulnerable are older than 65 or younger than age 5.

Dr. Jennifer Vines, Deputy Multnomah County Health Officer, said “the numbers are increasing and we are seeing more severe cases of the flu,’’ she said. “We are seeing healthy persons require hospitalization.”

“But this doesn’t have to be so,’’ she said. “Small actions can make a big difference in keeping you and others from a serious infection.”

Dr. Vines recommends:

  • Get your flu shot, either through your primary care provider or at area pharmacies. Pharmacies can provide immunizations to people over 11. Some pharmacies can also immunize children under 11 with a prescription.
  • To find flu shot providers near you, go to flu.oregon.gov and type in your zip code.
  • Don't be a hero, stay home if you become sick.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your arm when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

For more information, call the Oregon Flu Hotline at 1-800-978-3040 or go to flu.oregon.gov. Or call your local health department in Multnomah County at 503-988-3406; in Clackamas County at 503-742-5300 and in Washington County at 503-846-3594.