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Emergency room visits for the flu spiked in the middle of December, doubling from the previous week.

CENTRAL OREGON FLU REPORT - DESCHUTES PUBLIC HEALTH - Flu activity varies from year to year, and reports are hgiher this year than last year.It is officially flu season, which is marked by four weeks of elevated activity.

In JeffersonCENTRAL OREGON FLU REPORT - DESCHUTES PUBLIC HEALTH - Flu activity varies from year to year, and reports are hgiher this year than last year. County, the number of emergency room visits for "influenza-like illness" doubled last week from the week before, going from eight to 16. From Dec. 8 to 14, labs in Jefferson, Crook and Deschutes counties tested 333 samples, 83 of which were positive. There were 60 more tests than the previous week, and 143 more than the week before that. The percentage of positive tests has climbed 12.3 percentage points over the past two weeks, as well.

Central Oregon epidemiologist Jenny Faith, who serves all three counties, said ideally people should be vaccinated by October.

"But it's not too late now," she said. "You'll get a lot of protection for the flu season."

Two years ago, local cases peaked around New Year's Day; last year was around March, she said.

It's too soon to tell exactly how this year's virus strains will spread, but "we're seeing more influenza B," she said.

That's unusual, though it doesn't mean much practically, Faith said. Usually the A strain of the virus spreads first.

Regardless, the recommendations are the same.

"So first and foremost ... getting a flu vaccine," Faith said. Vaccines — whether the recommended high dose for older adults or the normal dose — cover both strains of the virus.

People who have had the vaccine can also minimize the spread of the flu.

That's important because people who have compromised immune systems and infants under 6 months can't get the vaccine.

"It's not only to protect yourself but the people around you," Faith said.

To help protect yourself and others, Faith has some simple advice: wash your hands; avoid other who are sick, and stay home if you're sick; cover your coughs and sneezes; clean off your keyboard; and keep the surfaces in your home and workplace clean.

While flu vaccines aren't 100% effective, they won't give you the flu, Faith said. It can take up to two weeks to work, so it's possible to get sick before it kicks in, but it's still the best method of prevention.

The flu is not different from a cold and can be mild to severe. It can at times lead to death, according to the Deschutes County Health Services.

It usually comes on suddenly, and symptoms may — but do not always —include the following: fever or feeling feverish and having chills, fatigue, muscle or body aches, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and headaches. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though it is more common in children.

Public health officials recommend rest and plenty of fluids if you get sick. They say to see a doctor if you're concerned about the illness, take antivirals if a doctor prescribes them and stay home.

To get vaccinated:

Contact your primary care physician or pharmacy. If they are out of the vaccine or if you do not have insurance, call

the Jefferson County Public Health Department at 541-475-4456 or stop by 715 SW Fourth St., Madras.

Subscribe to Jenny Faith's Central Oregon Weekly Flu Report at

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