Lane County Public Health confirms at least 7 deaths attributed to influenza-like illnesses since mid-December; urges vaccination

Lane County Public Health confirms at least 7 deaths attributed to influenza-like illnesses since mid-December; urges vaccination
Posted on 01/05/2017
Lane County Public Health today confirmed 11 outbreaks of influenza-like illness have been reported within the last 30 days in Lane County, 6 of which have been reported within the last week. During this same time, 7 people have died due to influenza-like illness, 4 in the last week. 

“I think it is clear from the number and rate of outbreaks that our vaccination rates here in Lane County are far too low,” said Dr. Patrick Luedtke, Lane County chief health officer. “It’s certainly not too late to receive your flu vaccination and while we will always have reports of individuals contracting influenza after receiving the vaccination, at a population level it is evident that widespread vaccination can and will prevent outbreak scenarios like what we’re seeing now.”

While it is difficult to accurately compare the current flu season with previous years until after the season has ended, both the number of reported outbreaks and deaths are on track to be at their highest since 2012. Additionally, this season is unique in the distribution of cases, with an initial peak happening in early December and a likely second peak in mid to late January. 

Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. It is spread by droplets made when people cough, sneeze or talk. It is also possible for people to “catch” the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes. The average incubation period for the flu is two days but can range between 1–4 days. Those with the flu can infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to 5–7 days after becoming sick. Symptoms include a fever (100ºF or higher), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, feeling very tired, vomiting or diarrhea. Not everyone that has the flu has all of these symptoms. 

In addition to yearly flu vaccinations for adults, health officials are urging the highest risk groups (e.g., persons aged 65 years or older, children, pregnant women, persons with cardio-pulmonary disease and the immunocompromised) to prioritize vaccination. Some, particularly the elderly, may also benefit from the use of the newly available high dose or adjuvant vaccine. 

Finally, it is important for all individuals to practice proper respiratory hygiene by covering their cough or sneeze; washing hands frequently or using hand sanitizer; disposing of tissues used for coughing or sneezing in a receptacle that is out of reach of children; avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth; and by staying home for up to 24 hours after a fever has resolved. 

While shortages of medications at individual facilities have been reported, there is no local, regional or national shortage of either the flu vaccine or anit-viral medications. Individuals can receive the flu vaccine at participating pharmacies or from their health care provider.

For additional information on influenza, please visit the Lane County Public Health website

Lane County Public Health is a division of Lane County Health & Human Services and works to promote, protect the health and well-being of all people of Lane County.