The flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory infection caused by viruses. Influenza can cause mild to severe illness, and, in the most extreme cases, even death. The flu usually starts suddenly with fever and chills, a sore throat, cough, and sometimes stomach pain. In children, the first symptoms might be vomiting or diarrhea.
During flu season, which typically runs from November through April, as many as one-in-five people become infected. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year. Frequent hand washing, avoiding close contact with infected persons, and staying home if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms are good practices to help limit chances of contracting the virus.
Emergency departments across the state have seen an increase in patients administered with influenza this year. In the Portland Metro Tri-County area, hospitals report that about five percent of visits are due to the flu, compared with 4 percent during last year’s flu season.
Portland Metro hospitals units remain very busy but have been able to shift staff to meet the increased demand. The public should know that primary care and urgent care are alternatives for illness that is not immediately life-threatening.
So far this year two children have died of the flu in Oregon, according to the Oregon Health Authority. No children died last year, and one child died in each of the previous three years. Data are not collected on adult deaths believed to be associated with the flu.Most experts hope that the region is near the peak of flu season, but health care providers still encourage people who have not been vaccinated to get a flu shot. To find out where to get the vaccine, use the Flu Vaccine Finder or call 2-1-1 (211info.org).