January 25, 2013

Clinic visits for people with influenza-like symptoms (fever, chills, body aches, sore throat and cough) have remained moderate over the past few weeks.  In addition, 124 people have been hospitalized from Oct. 1, 2012 to Jan. 19, 2013 -- including 39 newly reported hospitalizations last week (January 13-19).

Multnomah County health officials are hearing more reports of absenteeism from schools due to respiratory causes, which is typical for this time of year when influenza and colds become more common throughout the community.

People who smoke are more susceptible to the flu and this includes people who breathe secondhand smoke, especially children and the elderly. People over 65 continue to be hardest hit by influenza, and are the most likely to be hospitalized because of it. However, anyone can get the flu, and even healthy children and adults can become seriously ill. Fortunately, no pediatric deaths have been reported in Oregon.

Influenza vaccine is still available and is recommended for everyone over 6 months old. Be familiar with the symptoms of the flu, because early treatment with antiviral medications can really help. For more information on symptoms and whether or not to see a doctor, visit  web.multco.us/health/influenza.

To protect yourself and your family:

  • Get the flu shot. The vaccine reduces your risk of getting sick from influenza and from spreading the virus to others. There is still time for the flu shot to be effective this season.
  • 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.
  • If you’re over 65 and become ill with flu symptoms, call your health provider right away to see if you can begin anti-viral medication.

For information on how to prevent the flu or find where to get the flu shot:, visit  www.flu.oregon.gov or call 211.