Flu season returns, health officials urge safety

Flu season’s back. Health agencies are advising the public to take caution.

Local hospitals and pharmacies are offering vaccines.

“This is when people really start to think about flu in this region … we usually peak in Oregon in February and March,” said Trish Elliot of Hood River County Health Department.

According to reports the department receives, “They’re seeing more flu this past week with severe illness,” Elliott said.

The most vulnerable groups for catching the flu are the young and the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions.

Elliott offered several guidelines to limit viruses from spreading:

  • Stay home if you’re sick.
  • Wash your hands often with warm (not hot) water and mild soap.
  • Don’t sneeze or wipe your nose on places the public will touch.
  • Use sanitary wipes at grocery stores before handling the shopping cart.

Hospitals are taking extra caution during the flu season, putting in place tighter procedures.

Providence Health & Services in Oregon announced last week that visitors under age 18 will not be allowed in family birth centers and other hospital areas, as “school-age children have higher rates of exposure to the flu.”

“We know that pregnant women, young children and other people who are being treated in our hospitals face increased risk if they are exposed to the flu virus,” Providence said in a news release.

Providence advised patients who have a cough or a sore throat to wear a mask in the hospital to protect others. Hospital staff will take extra care to prevent viruses from being spread between patients, including wearing gowns, masks, goggles and gloves.

Zika virus causes global concern

While the common flu has risen as a concern on the local level, international health news this week has been dominated by a mosquito-borne virus: Zika.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sounded the Zika alarm this week, adding nearly 25 countries and territories to the list that have been hit with the virus, mostly in the Pacific, Central and South America.

The World Health Organization declared a public health emergency Monday.

However, the virus hasn’t yet spread within Oregon.

Since 2014, three people in Oregon have caught the Zika virus, all of whom visited Polynesia, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Monday.

In a notice, CDC said the Zika virus spreads primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.

The most commons symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, lasting several days to a week.

“To date, local transmission of Zika virus has not been identified in the continental United States,” CDC reported. “Limited local transmission may occur in the mainland United States, but it’s unlikely that we will see widespread transmission of Zika in the mainland U.S.”

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