Editorial: Early signs suggest tough flu season

The winter of 2013-14 apparently is going to be a tough one for those susceptible to the flu. That’s the bad news. The good news is this: Although flu season has arrived, there’s still time to get that vaccination against the disease.

Nearly everyone over 6 months old can be vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those between the ages of 2 and 49 can use a nasal mist; the rest of us must go with the old-fashioned flu shot. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for full immunity to kick in.

Oregon and Washington health officials, meanwhile, are already reporting widespread flu. At least one child in Oregon, a 5-year-old boy, has died from the disease, and The Oregonian reports there have been at least six other deaths in the state as well. In the Portland metropolitan area alone, nearly 200 people have been hospitalized with the disease.

Nor are Central Oregonians immune. While health care providers here are not required to report flu to public health officials in Deschutes County, they work with the county, doing rapid tests and reporting the results.

In November, Deschutes County public health officials say, some 266 flu tests were done, with a dozen of them positive for influenza. Last month, the number of tests rose to 391 and the number of positives reported jumped to 58. St. Charles Bend said at least five people have been hospitalized for flu since Dec. 1.

Moreover, this year’s predominant flu, the H1N1 swine flu of 2009, is hitting young and middle-aged adults more than other groups. That’s a change. Usually the elderly and very young are most at risk for flu.

Flu vaccinations are readily available at health clinics and many local pharmacies. If you’re unsure if you should have one, check with your physician. People who have had serious reactions to flu vaccine and those with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome are among those who should not receive the vaccine, and those who are currently ill should wait until they’re well, the CDC says. Your doctor will be able to tell you if vaccination is safe for you.

Flu is not a cold on steroids, and, in fact, as too many Oregon families already have learned, it can kill people. Vaccination will not only protect you and loved ones, but others, as well. That’s a big payoff for the relatively minor pain of an injection.