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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow County flu cases down for now

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County flu cases down for now

From left, Eudora Charlton, Kathy Ward and Amy Frederick discuss the masks available at Grande Ronde Hospitalís entrance. Anyone with flu-like symptoms is urged to wear a mask when visiting or to avoid visiting at all. (Photo by Chris Baxter)
From left, Eudora Charlton, Kathy Ward and Amy Frederick discuss the masks available at Grande Ronde Hospitalís entrance. Anyone with flu-like symptoms is urged to wear a mask when visiting or to avoid visiting at all. (Photo by Chris Baxter)
County health officials expect second peak, urge residents to get vaccinated

Health officials hope cases of the flu will stay at bay in Union County.

With that in mind, health professionals are still urging residents to get a flu vaccine.

The Oregon Health Authority’s weekly flu report issued Friday suggests many are heeding that advice but that influenza viruses are still widespread across the state.

Amy Frederick, infection preventionist and employee health nurse at Grande Ronde Hospital, said the hospital saw an increase in flu cases around the first of the year.

“It kind of hit our area all of a sudden,” she said, but noted that there has been a slight decrease since then.

Frederick said, though, that the flu season is far from over and she and other officials anticipate a possible resurgence.

“We’re planning for that,” she said.

The hospital hasn’t implemented restrictions on visitors yet, as some hospitals on the west side of Oregon have.

“We are asking (patients) to limit the number of visitors, especially if they’re under the age of 18,” Frederick said, adding that younger visitors are typically healthier and can carry the flu virus without knowing it, inadvertently passing it along. 

The hospital is also asking anyone with any flu-like symptoms to wear masks or to simply not visit.

Frederick said GRH has also activated its incident command  system so that if flu cases pick up, operations will flow smoothly without employees being bogged down.

Anticipating a second peak in flu cases, Frederick says it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

“That’s the single most important thing people can do to prevent influenza,” she said. “I do it for others. For me it’s just simple: the benefits outweigh the risk. If I can protect one person, it’s worth it.”

The cases seen at GRH aren’t confined to any age group, so Frederick suggests anyone over 6 months get a vaccination.

No school districts in Union or Wallowa counties, including La Grande, are reporting flu outbreaks but several districts are reporting significant levels of illness, including North Powder.

“It (the flu) has been going around but we have not had anything close to an epidemic,’’ said North Powder School District Superintendent Lance Dixon.

Dixon noted that on Thursday six first-graders were absent with what he said likely was the flu.

Students in the Wallowa School District have been battling sickness since mid-November. At Wallowa Elementary School as many as seven or eight children are home sick on any given day. 

“A lot are out with pneumonia,’’ said Pam Stitzel, a secretary at Wallowa Elementary School.

Sickness began hitting the Enterprise School District just before Christmas vacation started and has continued since then. School District Superintendent Brad Royes said a number of teachers have been out with illnesses. Royes said he’s been having a hard time finding enough substitute teachers to fill in for the educators who are out with illness.

Frederick said she has been working closely with Public Health and that some flu information will soon be headed out to students in the area.

“Parents should be seeing stuff come home with their kiddos,” she said.

Contact Kelly Ducote at 541-786-4230 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Kelly on Twitter @lgoDucote.

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