BEND, OR -- St. Charles has seen an uptick in patients with flu-like symptoms in emergency departments in Bend, Redmond, Prineville and Madras. "Just this past week in Bend, 38% of the tests for Influenza were positive for the flu; so that shows a big uptick in our activity," says Dr. Rebecca Sherer, Infectious Disease Specialist based at the Bend hospital. She tells KBND News Australia’s flu season – which ended in October – is usually a predictor of how ours will go. "They had a particularly difficult flu season, with a lot of diagnosed cases, high numbers of cases and also high numbers of deaths from the flu."
Heather Kaisner, with Deschutes County Public Health, says it’s too early to know whether this year will be worse than normal, but it’s possible. "Unfortunately, we kind of forget that January hits and flu tends to hit; and it tends to peak here around mid-January to early February, so we’re definitely seeing an earlier increase, this year." She says it seems like a bad year because of the timing, "A lot of people were sick over the holidays, when flu – on average – tends to peak here more the end of January, so we’re definitely seeing an earlier trend, this year. But, I can’t say for sure if we’ve peaked."
Both Kaisner and Dr. Sherer say cases could increase now that all students are back at school. "Really, our biggest message is if you can, please stay home if you’re sick. What we really people to do is, [stay home] at least 24 hours after your fever subsides, because you still can be contagious," Kaisner tells KBND News, "And, that’s how the flu is spread." And, consider getting vaccinated, "It can take up to two weeks to become effective in your body, so the sooner you get it the better. But, it’s definitely not too late to get a flu shot."
If you do visit the hospital with flu symptoms, Dr. Sherer says, "We’re asking patients who have respiratory symptoms – so, fever, cough, headaches, sore throat – to let us know as soon as you arrive, so we can put a mask on you and keep you from spreading influenza in our waiting room." She adds, "They’ll see kiosks stationed at our doors. If they come into the hospital to seek care and they’re ill, we ask that they use the alcohol sanitizer for their hands and put a mask on." She says children, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are at highest risk of complications from the flu.