Flu season has started quickly in Jackson County and elsewhere in Oregon, the latest state to be hit by the H1N1 flu strain moving through the country.
Data collected during the last week of 2013 shows more than four times the normal seasonal numbers of outpatients at Oregon hospitals and urgent-care centers for influenza-like illness.
Also more than a third of those tested for the H1N1 virus since the flu season began Oct. 1 also came that week, raising the eyebrows of public-health doctors across the state.
"What's pretty clear is that we have a real upsurge in flu activity over the past two weeks," says Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County's health officer. "Normally, late January is when it peaks, but it seems like we're in the middle of it now.
"Everywhere you look, there's more flu activity," Shames says.
The H1N1 strain was the same virus that triggered a pandemic outbreak in 2009, and it "has circled the globe for years," Shames says. It can be dangerous and it does cause more illnesses in children and young adults rather than hitting older adults, Shames says.
Jackson County has seen numerous flu cases, including some very serious ones, but numbers of actual cases weren't available locally, Shames says.
Public-health projections show that slightly more than one in five Jackson County residents this season has received a flu vaccination, which targets H1N1.
Shames says it's not too late to get vaccinated, "but it really ought to be now."
Vaccinations cost about $30 and can be received at pharmacies or clinics.
— Mark Freeman