Flu impacts ‘lighter than anticipated’

A surge of H1N1 influenza cases in the last week of December 2013 prompted hospital officials to prepare for what was expected to be a particularly bad flu season.

Portland was hit harder than many other cities in Oregon, causing many hospitals in the metro area to institute visiting restrictions in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the potentially deadly virus.

In early January, Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital instituted its first flu restrictions since the swine flu outbreak since 2009, but has since lifted visiting restrictions after an anticipated spike in flu cases failed to materialize.

Armanda Mason, infection preventionist for PHRMH, said this flu season, which started Oct. 1 and generally peaks in February, hasn’t generated many hospital visits lately in Hood River County.

“The flu season was lighter than anticipated, considering what was happening in Portland,” she said.

According to Mason, the numbers were actually down at the hospital from last season, which saw nine inpatient admissions for the flu and 25 outpatient lab tests for the flu. Mason reported that this season, the hospital saw “four confirmed inpatients” and 10 outpatients. Additionally, Mason said the majority of flu cases occurred in January and the last outpatient lab the hospital ran that tested positive for flu was back in the first week of February. Mason added, however, that the hospital is “still testing patients who are symptomatic.”

Susan Frost, public affairs manager for PHRMH, reported that visitors have been “very understanding” of the restrictions and that the whole process went “very smoothly.”

A couple blocks away at the Hood River County Health Department, the flu season has run a similar course.

“From my desk, it hasn’t been a very big flu season,” said Lindy McCasland, a registered nurse at the health department.

McCasland didn’t have any statistics on the number of flu cases in the county, but said there were no flu deaths that she was aware of. She did report that people “are still showing up with some regularity” to get inoculations, which the health department still has for insured infants (ages 0-3) and uninsured patients of all ages. She noted, however, there was no longer any flu vaccine available for insured patients over the age of 3, who must go to their local pharmacy if they wish to be inoculated.

Though the flu season may have peaked, McCasland added that people should be aware that the flu virus can still be contracted regardless of the time of year.

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