The Oregon Health Authority reports an Oregon child has died after contracting influenza. No other details about the child's death have been released.
"There has been one pediatric flu death so far this season," Oregon Health Authorities lead communications officer Jonathan Modie said.
According to Modie, the OHA doesn't track adult flu deaths because flu deaths in adults are not nationally notifiable (e.g., required to be reported).
A key reason, Modie said, is because seasonal influenza may lead to death from other causes, such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and it has been recognized for many years that influenza is infrequently listed on death certificates and testing for seasonal influenza infections is usually not done, particularly among the elderly who are at greatest risk of seasonal influenza complications and death.
"Some deaths — particularly in the elderly — are associated with secondary complications of seasonal influenza (including bacterial pneumonia)," Modie said. "Influenza virus infection may not be identified in many instances because influenza virus is only detectable for a short period of time and/or many people don’t seek medical care until after the first few days of acute illness."
For these and other reasons, Modie said statistical modeling strategies have been used to estimate seasonal flu-related deaths for many decades. Only counting deaths where influenza was included on a death certificate would be a gross underestimation of seasonal influenza’s true impact."
Modie said the OHA doesn't track flu hospitalizations by county, but does monitor influenza-associated hospitalizations in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties, the Tri-County/Portland Metro area, along with reports of emergency department visits for influenza-like illness, positive flu tests as reported to the National Respiratory and Enteric virus Surveillance System and reported flu outbreaks around the state. Modie said the information collected gives the OHA a good sense of flu activity around the state.
Modie said the timing of flu is unpredictable and can vary from season to season.
"Seasonal flu viruses can be detected year-round," he said. "However, seasonal flu activity often begins as early as October and November and can continue to occur as late as May. Flu activity most commonly peaks between December and February."
The OHA encourages everyone to take steps to protect your families, co-workers, neighbors and community from the flu.
Modie said cases of flu are on the rise across Oregon, but it’s not too late to get vaccinated. Other ways people can help prevent flu:
Stay home from work or school when you are sick and limit contact with others
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue out when you are done
Wash hands with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may have flu germs on them
Avoid getting coughed and sneezed on
For parents concerned about the health safety of their children, the Center for Disease Control has helpful online tips at, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/treatment/caring-for-someone.htm.
To learn more about the 2019-20 flu season, go to the CDC webpage on frequently asked questions at https://bit.ly/33dtWgY. To contact the Oregon Health Authority, call 971-673-2315. To contact the Columbia County Health Department, call 503-397-7210.