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Delayed flu season for Oregon, elderly more susceptible to this strain

Josephine County Public Health says flu season usually peaks from late January to early February but this year, Oregon is seeing it's peak in March.

Posted: Mar 11, 2019 5:52 PM
Updated: Mar 11, 2019 6:11 PM

GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Josephine County Public Health Director, Michael Weber, says that last year was a nasty flu season. This year, we haven't seen as many flu cases in Oregon, but we also haven't hit the peak yet.

Flu seasons are unpredictable, so there's not exact answer to why this could happen, but Weber told NewsWatch 12 that this delayed spike in flu season may have to do with the amount of people who got a flu shot this year.

"Part of it is our vaccinations are up significantly. So, we have about a 25 percent increase in vaccination rates for children this year and we're seeing similar numbers for adults and that can help clear off a lot of the influenza — that's the primary influenza strains," said Weber.

Weber suspects that vaccination rates are up because last year was a particularly bad season. He said we aren't far enough in the flu season to get an exact read on how effective the flu shot is, but he said right now its about 47 percent effective. That's within the normal range of how effective the shot usually is.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that this year's flu strain is particularly attacking the elderly. They say seniors are at high risk for catching the flu because their immune systems have trouble identifying new viral strains. The CDC says a new strain, H3N2, now accounts for more than half the nation's flu cases.

The Rogue Valley Retirement community has a plan of action if they have an outbreak of illnesses.

"We shut down the floors and the kitchen and the dining room. In the kitchen then we provide each level of floor food service to their doors and we ask that no one comes out unless it's an emergency," says Shirley Bright, manager of the Rogue Valley Retirement Community.

So far, Bright says they have been lucky and have not seen many flu cases yet.

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