Every year influenza affects hundreds of people in Lane County. However, the flu has caused two deaths this season, according to the Lane County Health Department. The two victims were adults, one a resident at an assisted living facility and the other a 36-year-old woman in Springfield.
In the past two weeks, the Oregon Public Health Division has recorded a total of 361 flu-related hospitalizations, 153 last week. There may be more to come with 31 reported outbreaks this week across the state.
Even though fatal cases this year are lower in comparison to last year, there is a new strain emerging this season. Dr. Patrick Luedtke at Lane County Public Health warns that the H3N2 flu strain has affected 46 states already. Even with the flu shot, this new strain is only partially covered. Luedtke reports that Oregon is one of the four states that the new strain has not affected. The H1N1 strain is the main player in this year’s flu season so far. With a potential new threat to the community, residents are on high alert to remain healthy this flu season.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald reports in a media release, “So far this season, influenza A, H3N2, has been the most common form of influenza. These viruses are often linked to more severe illness, especially among children and people age 65 and older. When H3 viruses are predominant, we tend to have a worse flu season with more hospitalizations and more deaths.”
The CDC website also lists common flu symptoms: fever or feeling hot/cold, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting or diarrhea. In extreme cases, they advise that anyone experiencing difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in their chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness or confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, symptoms that improve but then return with a fever and cough to receive emergency medical attention.
As the flu circulates around the county, Lane students attempt to avoid illness to keep up with the new term. While many students have been successful at staying flu-free so far this term, some students haven’t been as fortunate.
Ryan Downey, a sophomore at Lane, started off winter term with the flu.
“I woke up one morning with a little bit of a sore throat, the next morning I had a really bad headache and light sensitivity and muscle aches,” he said. “The next day I had a really bad sore throat and my neck was swollen. I went to Urgent Care and tested positive for Influenza B and prescribed an antiviral that soothed the symptoms.”
Downey added, “Since I missed the first day of winter term, I’ve been playing a little bit of catch-up. Fortunately, I didn’t catch it midterm because I would have missed more school and classes are more vigorous by that time.”
The Lane Health Clinic recommends that students frequently wash their hands and get the flu shot to avoid contracting the virus. The health clinic offers flu shots to anyone who hasn’t received one yet for a fee. If someone has already come down with the flu, the clinic urges students to stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever to hydrate and rest.