Health

Flu season is ramping up; Oregon reports ‘very high’ activity

Flu season is ramping up; Oregon reports ‘very high’ activity

The US flu season is getting worse.

Health officials said Friday that 7.5% of outpatient visits last week were for flu-like illnesses. That’s as high as the peak of the 2017-18 flu season and higher than any season since.

The annual winter flu season doesn’t usually start until December or January, but this one started early and was complicated by the simultaneous spread of other viruses.

The measure of turnover in doctor’s offices is based on reports of symptoms such as cough and sore throat, not on laboratory-confirmed diagnoses. So it can include other respiratory diseases.

This makes it difficult to compare to flu seasons before the COVID-19 pandemic. Other years are also not this year’s unusually strong wave of RSVor respiratory syncytial virus, a common cause of cold-like symptoms it can be serious for babies and the elderly.

Meanwhile, 44 states reported high or very high flu activity last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. Oregon and Washington are in a very high category.

This chart shows the percentage of positive flu tests in Oregon since 2017.

That may not bode well for the near future. There was likely more spread of respiratory viruses during Thanksgiving gatherings and at crowded airports, experts say.

The dominant flu strain so far is the type usually associated with higher rates of hospitalization and death, especially in people over 65.

The CDC estimates there have been at least 78,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths from the flu so far this season. At least 14 children were among the dead.

In the tri-county Portland area, 7,583 people tested positive for the flu and 78 people were hospitalized in the week ending Nov. 26, according to the latest data released by the Oregon Health Authority. That’s 56% more hospitalizations compared to the previous week.

The flu shot is recommended for almost all Americans who are at least 6 months of age or older.

— By MIKE STOBBE AP Medical Writer and The Oregonian/OregonLive

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