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Sarah Whisenhunt of Roseburg receives an influenza shot from vaccine coordinator Sallie Dean at Umpqua Community Health Center on Wednesday.

Douglas County is hacking through a seasonal flu outbreak that has arrived earlier and hit harder than normal.

“This is a bit worse year than usual but not out of the ordinary,” Dr. Robert Dannenhoffer, the Douglas County Health Officer, said.

Dannenhoffer said Douglas County, along with the rest of the country, is suffering from a seasonal flu outbreak.

The flu started to spike in mid-December which is earlier than usual for Douglas County, and just in time for the holidays when people travel, spend time with family and friends, and this year because of the early arrival, transmit the flu.

Joseph Lane Middle School felt the spike last month. The school was impacted “pretty significantly” before the school’s holiday break, district Superintendent Gerry Washburn said.

The school typically sees attendance in the low 90 percent range, but during the outbreak last month, attendance was down to just over 80 percent.

More recently, the district is seeing attendance figures that indicate the flu is not having a significant impact on the numbers of children in school.

Mercy Medical Center saw 55 patients that tested positive for the flu last month, and has seen 46 in January so far. Most of them were seen in the emergency room.

Hospital spokeswoman Kathleen Nickel said the flu seems more severe this season than last year, but added she didn’t have any official figures to back that up.

It is too early to say whether the flu season has hit its peak. That isn’t known until later in the season when the illness starts to taper off.

Dannenhoffer said he did not know of any deaths from the flu this season in Douglas County as of Tuesday but it would not be unusual for deaths to occur from the flu.

Flu sufferers feel feverish, with a cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Vomiting or diarrhea sometimes occur, most typically in children.

Most people who get the flu recover in a few days to less than two weeks. But some develop complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.

People who are 65 years or older are at high risk of flu-related complications, as are those with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease, pregnant women and young children.

Flu shots can still take effect in time to help ward off the flu. But for those who missed the opportunity and are starting to feel flu-like symptoms coming on, they are advised to stay home and see a doctor if the illness becomes severe.

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City Government and Business reporter

John Dickey is a city government and business reporter for The News-Review.

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