Northeast Oregon holding flu at bay

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer January 16, 2013 12:20 pm

By Bill Rautenstrauch

Communicable disease nurse Holly Goebel administers an influenza vaccination to Shaun Cederholm of La Grande as he takes advantage of one of the health services offered by the Center for Human Development in La Grande Tuesday. Influenza can occur at any time but most cases occur from October through May with most infections in recent seasons occurring in January and February. CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer
Communicable disease nurse Holly Goebel administers an influenza vaccination to Shaun Cederholm of La Grande as he takes advantage of one of the health services offered by the Center for Human Development in La Grande Tuesday. Influenza can occur at any time but most cases occur from October through May with most infections in recent seasons occurring in January and February. CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer

Despite outbreak in other parts of nation, only a few flu cases confirmed in the area 

Influenza is rampant in some parts of the country this year, but Oregon — including Union and Baker counties — has a lid on it so far.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta recently reported elevated flu outbreaks in 47 states, and said that in some states people may have to go to a couple of different sources before they find vaccine. Across the country, the CDC reported 20 pediatric deaths. 

In Oregon, the state health authority’s Public Health Division said the number of people reporting flu-like symptoms is on the rise, but the flu activity level remains moderate and effective vaccine is available. Statewide, 2.8 percent of outpatient visits so far in the 2012-13 season have been for flu symptoms. The state agency said flu in Oregon this year is mostly of the Type A seasonal variety known as H3N2.

“While we are seeing some uptick of flu, particularly H3N2, we are not seeing the rates that other states, particularly those on the East Coast and in the South are experiencing,” said Public Health Physician Richard Leman.

Locally, people have been showing up at medical facilities with fever, runny noses and coughs, but only a few flu cases have been confirmed. 

Andi Walsh, communications and emergency preparedness coordinator at the Center for Human Development in La Grande, said her agency is aware of three confirmed cases of the flu in Union County, none fatal, so far this season. Walsh said more people likely have been infected but have not had their cases confirmed through lab testing.

Patients have come to Grande Ronde Hospital with flu-like symptoms, though Infection Control Officer Amy Fredericks said Wednesday exact numbers of confirmed cases weren’t available. She also said flu activity doesn’t appear to be high.

“We haven’t had a ton of cases,” she said.

In Baker City, flu activity looks to be low-level so far. Laura Huggins, marketing coordinator and communications director at St. Alphonsus Medical Center, said the facility has seen just two confirmed cases this season. Like Walsh, Huggins