December 6, 2019

Cases of influenza—or “flu” — are on the rise in the Portland metro area, prompting health officials to remind residents it’s not too late to get their yearly flu shot. 

“Everyone agrees that influenza is here to stay for the next several months, so now is a good time to get a flu shot and stay well for the holidays,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines, Deputy Health Officer for Multnomah County.

Area residents may also see extra precautions — such as restrictions on visitors — at medical facilities.

Influenza is a respiratory infection caused by viruses that can spread easily when a sick person coughs or sneezes. Influenza can cause mild to severe symptoms. People of any age can have serious complications, but young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with underlying health problems are most at risk.

Illness usually starts suddenly with fever, chills, sore muscles, a sore throat or cough. People sick with influenza can spread the virus for about a week. Complications include sinus, ear and lung infections, and worsening of asthma and heart conditions.

Health officials and health systems have begun to see an uptick in influenza activity this season.

The Oregon Health Authority tracks the percentage of people with flu-like symptoms testing positive for flu, emergency department visits for flu-like illness and the number of weekly flu-related hospitalizations in the Portland metro area. 

The most recent data for the Portland metro area shows 16.8 percent of people with flu-like symptoms tested positive for flu, a number that has steadily gone up in recent weeks with Sixteen influenza-related hospitalizations reported during that week in the metro area.

The best way to keep from getting seriously ill is by getting a flu shot. The influenza virus is always changing so that it can get around the body’s defenses. The vaccine is updated every year to try to offer the best protection against the viruses going around.

To find out where to get the vaccine, use the Flu Vaccine Finder or call 2-1-1. People can also help stop the spread of influenza by staying home when sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and washing hands regularly.