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DHS news release

Dec. 20, 2005

 

Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (971) 673-1282
Technical contact: Susan Allan, M.D. (971) 673-1300

 

Oregon's lab-confirmed influenza cases more than double in week

 


 

Reports of laboratory-confirmed flu cases in Oregon more than doubled last week, and public health officials in the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) are encouraging people to get vaccinated.

 

The number of lab-confirmed cases rose from 18 on Dec. 10 to 45 on Dec. 17.

 

"Annual influenza is definitely here," said Susan Allan, M.D., state public health director in DHS. "We don't expect flu season to be in full swing for several weeks, so we want people to know there is still time to get a flu shot."

 

Flu season in Oregon typically peaks in late January or February, and may continue into April or even May.

 

Allan said that Oregon is also monitoring for avian influenza, although no human or bird cases of the H5N1 virus have been identified in North America. "Avian flu does not currently present any risk of creating human outbreaks," she said. "But 'regular' influenza should be taken seriously, with estimates that it causes up to 36,000 deaths each year in the U.S."

 

Allan said it is especially important that any person in one of the following high-priority groups get a flu shot:

  • Children aged 6-23 months;
  • Adults aged 65 and older;
  • Residents of nursing homes and long term care facilities;
  • Anyone aged 2-64 with underlying medical conditions;
  • Pregnant women;
  • Health care workers who provide direct patient care; and
  • Caregivers and household contacts of children under 6 months of age.

 

Live attenuated vaccine (LAIV), the nasal spray marketed as FluMist, is a good choice for healthy people between ages 5 and 49 who want to be protected against influenza. This includes health care workers and those who have contacts with infants, according to Allan. Research has shown it to be at least as safe and effective as the injected vaccine, she said.

 

"Choosing LAIV could save a life," Allan said. "It means you are saving flu shots for those at highest risk of complications from the flu. And you are reducing the likelihood that you will spread the flu to others in your family or community."

This year, Oregon received more than 655,000 doses of vaccine -- 55,000 more doses than last flu season. In October, DHS Public Health began inventorying vaccine supplies around the state and is currently helping health departments redistribute supplies at the county level.

 

Last year's vaccine shortage, followed by this season's delay in vaccine deliveries has caused confusion and frustration, Allan acknowledged. She points out that state and federal governments do not control the amount of vaccine produced or how it is distributed. "This is all managed by private pharmaceutical companies, which make only the amount of vaccine they estimate will be purchased and determine when vaccine is delivered to their purchasers," she said.

 

"If your first call for vaccination is not successful, don’t give up," Allan said. "Keep checking back, because more supplies may become available."

 

People seeking vaccinations should check with their health care provider or the county health department. Up-to-date statewide information can also be found on the Web at www.lungoregon.org or by calling (800) SAFENET, or (503) 988-5858 in the Portland area.