Flu Symptoms Rise in Oregon : How To Prevent the Flu in a Low Vaccinated City

by Jesse Eells-Adams, Staff Writer

Flu season is still upon us with confirmed cases in this otherwise mild La Nina winter. “We are seeing a high volume of people in our emergency departments with flu-like symptoms,” said Lauren Van Sickle, Senior Public Relations at Asante Ashland.

Although this season is “not any worse than last year,” according to Anna D’Amato, Executive Director of the Student Health & Wellness Center, that is not necessarily a cause for relief. “A lot of people seem to be having a cough,” D’Amato added.

In a letter sent out to parents of Ashland High School Students by Belinda Brown RN, Ashland School District Nurse, those experiencing symptoms from the Influenza virus, or the “flu,” are urged to stay home for as least 24 hours after the last symptom is experienced. Symptoms vary and can affect pregnant women, those with health issues, infants, and the elderly with more severity. 

Symptoms include fevers upwards of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, chills, sore throats, aching muscles, fatigue, coughing, headaches, and more, some of which can be mistaken for the common cold. However, symptoms of the flu are often more intense and can last up to seven days. The flu is particularly dangerous in that it can lead to pneumonia and blood infections, and seizures and diarrhea in children.

A prescription for an antiviral medication, Tamiflu, is available at the Student Health & Wellness Center. Tamiflu can be used to reduce symptoms within 48 hours of flu symptom onset. An easy preventative measures to counteract the virus is regular hand washing before and after touching your face, eating and drinking. The flu vaccine is a recommended preventative measure by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is available for students at the Student Health & Wellness Center and area pharmacies.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that spreads from person to person by airborne droplets and usually peaks in late Fall and Winter. The CDC advises getting an annual flu vaccine as the best preventative step to take, one dose for an adult and sometimes two for children aged six months through eight years. The vaccine takes about two weeks to develop, and the protection lasts through the season.

Although there are a few disqualifying factors in getting the vaccine, it is recommended by the CDC for most people to continue the vaccination annually, as the virus changes and mutates constantly. This is known as antigenic drift. “I haven’t heard of any dangers of anyone getting the flu shot,” said D’Amato.

Ashland school district is notorious for low immunization with a 25.4% exemption rate from at least one vaccine as of March 2016, according to Ashland Child. This puts Ashland behind only Boulder, CO as the least vaccinated city in the country. However, Laura Pogue of Jackson County Public Health has noticed “an increase in how many flu vaccines we’ve given.” However,  Pogue continued, “a lot of children are not vaccinated,” and cited Ashland as being a “problem area” in terms of low vaccination rates which sometimes can result in cases of whooping cough among other afflictions.

Jackson County saw a drop in Influenza like illness (ILI) in the first week of January as compared to the last week of 2017. The county had less ILI cases in Emergency Departments proportionately (2.5%) than the rest of the state (5.1%), according to Jackson County Health and Human Services. The virus is still dangerous, however, as there have been two reported pediatric deaths in the last month in Oregon.

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