By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Flu season hits

Flu season has arrived in Oregon, with a return visit of the H1N1 virus that caused a pandemic in 2009. Though vaccination isn’t fail-safe, it represents the best protection available and is being strongly recommended.

“We still highly recommend getting it,” said Nursing Programs Manager Lindsey Manfrin of Yamhill County Public Health. “It’s never too late to get vaccinated in flu season.”

So far, Manfrin said, the department has no hard local data. But she said, “Anecdotally, our providers say they are seeing more flu, and more vaccine demand.”

Around the state, the illness has accounted for seven deaths so far, including that of a 5-year-old boy in Eugene.

The very young and very old are typically most at risk, but the The Associated Press reports that many victims requiring hospitalization this year were adults under 65. That is consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data issued late last month.

This year’s predominant H1N1 strain “caused more illness in children and young adults, compared to older adults,” when it last struck in 2009, the CDC said. It said the strain was also “notable for reports of severe illness among pregnant women ... and adverse neo-natal outcomes.”

Flu activity is still being rated “moderate” in Oregon, according to the state Health Authority. But the agency said it exceeds the normal level for this time of year.

Dr. Ann Thomas of the state Public Health Division told the Associated Press, “The only other time we’ve had this many hospitalizations before Christmas was in 2009, the pandemic. … It’s interesting that it’s the same strain of flu that’s circulating.”

Thomas said the Oregon flu season usually peaks in late February and early March, suggesting the worst is yet to come.

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