While winter may be winding down, flu season is still very much alive in Douglas County and around Oregon.
The Douglas Public Health Network reported that a potent late flu season has brought widespread flu activity.
CHI Mercy Medical Center has reported a higher than average number of positive flu tests over the past few weeks, and DPHN is also reporting a number of cases of influenza in area nursing homes.
Several schools are reporting elevated levels of student absence. Fremont Middle School sent out an email to parents saying it was doing some additional cleaning Tuesday, disinfecting more surfaces to try to keep the flu from spreading. School officials asked parents not to send their child to school if the child had had a fever within 24 hours.
Joseph Lane Middle School is also taking precautions with extra cleaning on door knobs and drinking fountains among other areas of the school. The school averages about 20 absentees per day, but Monday was about four times the average.
“We had 90 students out Monday,” said Nicki Opp, the school’s principal. “We have a combination of kids with confirmed cases of the flu, and some parents that were pretty sure their kids had the flu.
“But whatever it is, it’s hit us pretty hard, having that many out in one day,” Opp said.
Douglas Public Health Officer Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer said normally the flu season peaks in February.
“It looks like this year it’s going to peak in late March or April, so there is still flu out there,” Dannenhoffer said. “We’ve had some extra school time lost and a lot of flu cases in the emergency room.”
He said the most effective way to keep the flu from spreading is to keep your child home if they have a fever.
Dannenhoffer said the flu that arrived this year is type-A, which was the expected strain, and the strain of flu matches up with the vaccine that’s being offered this year.
DPHN has been in contact with both nursing home and school personnel, and appropriate control measures are in place.
Officials said the flu virus, in severe cases, can lead to hospitalization and even death. People at higher risk of severe illness include children, adults older than 65, pregnant women, and those with chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccination for everyone six months and older.
“It’s always worse for people with weakened immune systems and overall weakened condition and seniors especially seem to have issues with the flu,” Dannenhoffer said.
Dannenhoffer said vaccinating is the best protection, and while it may not provide 100 percent protection, it can still lessen the severity of illness. He said it’s still not too late to get the flu vaccine this year and the vaccines are still widely available.
To further prevent the spread of the virus, DPHN recommends people follow these guidelines:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue out when you are done.
- Wash hands with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may have flu germs on them.
School and nursing home personnel concerned about outbreaks at their facilities can contact DPHN Communicable Disease at 541-677-5814.