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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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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