This year’s flu season has been about as bad as it gets, said Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer, the executive director of the Douglas Public Health Network, and it continues to linger on in Douglas County.
Dannenhoffer said this season has been the state’s worst since 2009. He said the state has had a lot of hospitalizations, and in fact, there have been two pediatric deaths. Most of the flu cases have been attributed to the new H3N2 virus that has been circulating this year.
“Douglas County has had a little bit better go of it than the rest of the state, and I think that’s just good luck, and Oregon has done a little bit better than the rest of the country,” Dannenhoffer said. “But still, it’s been a bad year, and it’s not over yet.”
Dannenhoffer said highly contagious outbreaks are spreading through work areas, classrooms and sports team. He said flu shots are still available and encouraged anyone who hasn’t yet been vaccinated to do so.
Douglas County residents got more vaccinations than in the past, but still, less than 50 percent got a shot.
“To really get good coverage, we need it much higher than that,” Dannenhoffer said.
Flu vaccines normally increase after a bad year, and he expects that next flu season more people will get flu shots and get them earlier in the season.
Dr. Jim Daskalos of the Roseburg Urgent Care Clinic said this year has been a very busy one for colds and flu at the clinic.
“I thought last year was a bad year, but I think this one is going to surpass it,” he said. “I thought it started earlier from what we’ve seen in the clinic because we’re kind of front-line people.”
Daskalos said not only did the season start earlier this year at his clinic — near the end of October — this year’s strain seems particularly nasty.
“They feel like they’ve been run over by a truck, and then they see the train coming and it may hit them again,” Daskalos said. “But there’s really no good treatment, you just have to let it run its course.”
If you get the flu, Daskalos said you should drink lots of fluids, treat the fever, wash your hands a lot, and don’t cough on other people, because it will spread easily. And he said a cough can linger for several weeks in bad cases.
Symptoms can include triple-digit fevers and horrible body aches, with adults usually getting hit harder than children.
Four viruses have been circulating in this region, including two of the B strains, and the H1N1 strain, but those have been in smaller amounts, Dannenhoffer said.
Daskalos said one of the major concerns is health care workers who are constantly exposed to the flu when caring for the patients. They all had their flu shots he said, but the strains that the vaccine wasn’t very effective for, did cause some problems.
He said there was a mutation of the virus early in the most prominent flu, so the vaccines weren’t as effective as researchers had hoped.
“What we’ve seen is about half of the people that have come in with the flu, have had the vaccine, and they’re predicting it’s about 60 percent effective,” he said.
“Our staff has been pretty good, we’ve had a couple of people get the flu, and for the exposure we get, we’ve done pretty well,” he said. “They’ve all had their vaccinations and we still recommend it.”