There is a chill in the air, the leaves are falling, and the flu is lurking. Unfortunately, flu season is upon us, and experts predict we could see a high number of cases this year. In the United States, we typically predict the severity of the flu season based on what happens in the Southern hemisphere. They experience winter before us and therefore give us data on which variants may be coming. After the last few years of unusually low flu activity, we all need to reacquaint ourselves with ways to protect ourselves and our kids.
Tracking the Flu and Staying Informed
In Oregon, the flu is closely tracked, and weekly data is reported on the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) website. This data is similar to what is published about COVID-19. The OHA data is called Flu Bites and has been reported for years. The pandemic has made us all more aware of data and how to interpret it, so this is another useful tool Oregonians can use. The Flu bites report summarizes the weekly number of cases, the percent of tests that are positive, and what variant is dominant. Unlike COVID-19, when a flu test is administered, it can usually detect the type or variant of influenza.
For the most up-to-date Flu Bites information, visit the OHA Influenza Surveillance Page.
Why You and Your Kids Should Get a Flu Shot
One of the most effective ways to prevent your family from getting the flu is by getting a flu shot every year. While the vaccine is not 100% effective at preventing the flu, it significantly decreases your chance of experiencing severe illness, hospitalization, or death. According to the CDC, in 2019-2020 (the last flu season before the pandemic), the flu vaccine prevented an estimated 7.5 million flu illnesses, 3.7 million medical visits, 105,000 hospitalizations, and 6,300 deaths associated with the flu. There are risk factors that can increase you or your child’s chance of experiencing severe illness from the flu:
- Children under the age of 2
- Adults aged 65 and older
- Heart disease
- Chronic lung disease
- Any condition that weakens your immune system (being immunocompromised)
If you need help finding a flu shot in Oregon for yourself or your family, you can search Vaccines.gov to find a vaccine near you.
What You Can Do to Prevent the Flu in Oregon This Year
Unfortunately, there is no precise way to prevent the flu altogether. But you can do things to lower your chance of catching it. Here are some ways to protect yourself and your family:
- Get your flu shot (talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns)
- Wash your hands and your children’s hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds
- Disinfect commonly touched surfaces in your home (doorknobs, light switches, counters, toys)
- Teach your children to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth
- When flu activity is high, consider limiting large indoor activities or wearing a mask when the activity cannot be avoided
If we have learned anything over the last few years, it is that while we cannot prevent illness, we can lower our risk and do our part to protect others.
Brooke is a registered nurse and freelance writer with 10+ years of clinical nursing experience. She graduated from The University of Portland School of Nursing. Brooke grew up in Oregon and spends her free time with her husband and two young children exploring the Pacific Northwest.