As the polar vortex continues to bring frigid temperatures to many parts of the northeast, increasing reports of flu-related hospitalizations in Oregon have health officials worried about the western coast of the country. According to a local news station in Portland, Ore., doctors have been seeing a rise in the same H1N1 influenza that caused a nationwide pandemic in 2009. In fact, there have been 179 flu-related hospitalizations and 7 deaths in the Portland area alone since December 28, the latest victim a five year old boy who collapsed from his illness on Christmas and died several days later at Doernbecher Children's Hospital. Fears of spreading H1N1 have prompted Providence Health & Service’s eight Oregon hospitals to place restrictions on patient visitations in order to protect the health of the pregnant women, young children, and other patients in their care who are at higher risk of complications due to the influenza virus. The healthcare provider has posted a new set of procedures on their website that prohibits underage visitors in family birth centers or intensive care units unless they are the significant other of a patient or the parents of infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (ICU). Visitors under the age of 18 will no longer be allowed in other areas of the hospital with the exception of immediate family members. A recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an increase widespread influenza activity in 25 states, an increase from the 10 states reported to have widespread activity just one week prior.
H1N1, sometimes referred to as “swine flu,” is an influenza virus that was first detected in the United States in April of 2009 as the illness spread across various parts of the world. Though this virus was often called “swine flu” because of laboratory tests that showed gene similarities between the influenza viruses that normally occur in pigs, it was actually found to have genes from flu viruses that circulate in pigs, birds, and humans. Much like the seasonal flu, H1N1 is spread from human to human by coughing and sneezing. People can also become infected by touching a surface that has come into contact with the flu virus and then proceeding to touch their eyes, mouth, and nose without properly washing their hands. While getting infected with the H1N1 or any other flu virus should cause the body to develop immune resistance, individuals who have already fallen ill can still become infected with a different strain of the influenza virus. Common symptoms of the flu include runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Not everyone who becomes infected will develop a fever. Most people who contract H1N1 will have mild symptoms, but those particularly at risk such as pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and those who have other medical conditions are at an increased risk of severe illness or death. More information about medical conditions that put individuals at high risk of H1N1 related complications and details of the 2009 H1N1 virus can be found on the CDC’s information sheet on H1N1.
In order to prevent infection with the H1N1 virus, flu vaccinations are recommended for everyone six months of age or older and those at high risk for complications. Each year the flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that have been indicated by research to be the most common during the upcoming season. According to the CDC, traditional trivalent flu vaccines are made to protect against three flu viruses; H1N1, H3N2, and an influenza B virus. In addition to general information about influenza vaccinations, the CDC has also posted an information sheet detailing the types of vaccinations available for this year’s flu season. These vaccines can be found by accessing the freely available Vaccine Finder (http://vaccinefinder.healthmap.org/), that will tell vaccine seekers what vaccines they need, where they can find them, and what hours those providers are open. HealthMap has also developed a tool in partnership with the American Public Health Association and the Skoll Global Threats Fund called Flu Near You that allows users to track flu activity in their area. Vaccination is one of the most effective measures in protecting yourself and your loved ones from the influenza virus. Those with questions about which vaccinations are best for them should speak to their health care professional and work to find a prevention method best suited for their needs.
" 2 dead, 81 hospitalized in Oregon H1N1 flu cases." King 5 Local News [Portland] 05 Jan 2014, n. pag. Web. 9 Jan. 2014. <http://www.king5.com/news/local/2-dead-81-hospitalized-in-Oregon-H1N1-flu-cases–238792011.html>.
" 7 dead, nearly 180 hospitalized from flu in metro area."KGW News 06 Jan 2014, n. pag. Web. 9 Jan. 2014. <http://www.kgw.com/news/H1N1-flu-cases-widespread-in-Ore-2-reported-deaths-so-far-238782301.html>.
Bolduc, Kaitlyn. "Doctors confirm Oregon boy, 5, dies from H1N1 virus." KCTV 5 News 03 Jan 2014, n. pag. Web. 9 Jan. 2014. <http://www.kctv5.com/story/24361002/doctors-confirm-oregon-boy-5-dies-from-h1n1-virus>.
Dubois, Steven. "Portland Hospitals Report 7 Deaths."News Observer 06 Jan 2014, n. pag. Web. 9 Jan. 2014. <http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/01/06/3511290/portland-hospitals-report-7-flu.html>.
"Providence in Oregon is taking special steps during this flu season to protect our patients, families and friends.."Oregon and Southwest Washington. Providence Health and Services, 08 Jan 2014. Web. 9 Jan 2014. <http://oregon.providence.org/patients/newsandevents/Pages/NewsLanding.aspx?Type=News&Name=Providence in Oregon is taking special steps during this flu season to protect our patients, families and friends.&ORHomepg>.