Flu outbreak: serious issue or speculation?

Within the first few weeks of January, outbreaks of the flu have killed several older residents in Lane County.

The World Health Organization defines an outbreak as a cluster of people who have caught the virus in a certain geographic area, a common occurrence in retirement homes, preschools and K-12 schools.

According to several sources, including the Oregon Health Authority, this year has had an upswing in outbreaks. The 2015 – 2016 season, in comparison, showed record lows in flu outbreaks despite a lower national average in H1N1 vaccinations.

Laura Greene, Lane’s Interim Director of Health explained that it’s often very hard to track down definitive reasons why flu can hit citizens with swift and harsh symptoms and thinks speculation is the word best describing the flu. Greene also thinks that the extreme weather conditions in Oregon could have contributed heavily, considering that last year’s winter weather was rather mild in comparison to the 2016 – 2017 season.

Greene also had some insight on the matter regarding vaccination rates. “Often times why we see high flu outbreak rates is right after a season of low outbreaks. This is because people think they don’t need to get vaccinated the following year because the flu really isn’t around, however it’s all the more reason to get vaccinated so it won’t come back too quickly,” Greene said.

Lane’s health office has not seen any extreme cases with students on campus but that’s mostly due to students not coming to school if they feel that sick. There has also been a normal amount of vaccinations given to students at the health office.

It can be argued that vaccinations are the key to keeping the flu at bay, however lots of residents haven’t gotten vaccinated and often never catch the bug. Many people do not believe in vaccinations, a highly debated issue for many years.

Cindy Morgan is Lane County’s Communicable Disease Nursing supervisor. “The vaccination rates have stayed at a around 50 percent in Lane County. With these numbers we shouldn’t be surprised with the number of illnesses we’re seeing,” Morgan said.

There’s no getting around the flu. It’s an illness combatted by citizens everywhere every year and it can often be serious. This year is on the higher side in terms of serious cases but the strains going around “are not particularly strong,” according to Greene.