Trish Yerges
The La Grande Observer

The 2017-18 flu season is in full swing and a trend is surfacing that reveals exactly which strain of influenza is predominantly affecting people.

Registered nurse Amy Frederick, infection preventionist at Grande Ronde Hospital, commented on testing that has been conducted on flu cases seen so far this season.

“We have had 20 positive flu tests, with the first (testing) on Dec. 4,” Frederick said. “Fifteen of those have been during a two-week period (running from late December to mid-January).”

Closely corresponding with state data, GRH has seen a prevalence of verified influenza-A virus, sometimes dubbed “the hospitalizer.”

“Of the 20 cases (testing positive for flu), 15 were influenza-A and five were influenza B,” Frederick said.

Influenza is usually caused by either influenza-A or B, which are both covered in the vaccine.

A Dec. 27, 2017, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health Alert gave notice that “in the United States, influenza activity has increased significantly over recent weeks with influenza A(H3N2) viruses predominating so far this season.”

Influenza-A is the virus that has historically caused global outbreaks due to its ability to mutate quickly, but it would be a mistake to think that influenza-A is worse than influenza B. The CDC just published a new study highlighting the comparative severity of illness associated with influenza-A versus influenza-B virus infections.

“The results of the study showed that among hospitalized adults, flu B viruses caused equally severe disease outcomes and clinical characteristics as flu A viruses. This contradicts a common misconception that flu B viruses are associated with milder disease than flu A viruses,” stated the CDC report.

“Influenza-B certainly causes epidemics and can cause serious illness,” concurred Janet Wehrle, RN, a health nurse who works at GRH with Frederick.

The symptoms of influenza- A or B are not different.

“You wouldn’t know from just symptoms if you have A or B,” Wehrle said. “You wouldn’t necessarily know from your symptoms if you have the flu or a cold.”

See complete story in Friday's Observer