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Oregon-Northwest

Child’s death reported as flu season ramps up

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Expert: Season has come earlier this year; never to let to get vaccinated

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Health Authority's latest weekly flu season statistics indicate a child died from influenza-associated issues, the first seen this season.

The percentage of ER visits for influenza-like illnesses rose from 2.6% to 3.6% in the week of Dec. 18-14, the OHA reported in its "Flu Bites" weekly surveillance report for the flu and respiratory viruses.

There were 31 people hospitalized in Oregon due to the flu that week, up from 21 the prior week. The percentage of flu tests that came back positive also rose, from just over 19% to more than 27%.

"Flu season has come earlier this year than other years. We're about three to four weeks earlier than in general for other seasons," Dr. Katie Sharff, an infectious disease specialist with Kaiser Permanente, told KGW.

"This year is very interesting. We're seeing a predominance of influenza B virus, which is a unique strain to see this early in the season," Sharff said.

Flu season varies year to year. Doctors typically classify flu season from October to March, with the peak of activity from December to February.

"Everyone's at risk of the flu, it's not just being high risk. And so even if you think you're healthy, you should get a flu shot," Sharff said. "In 2017, 2018, they estimated 50,000 to 60,000 deaths from the flu. So it's a real disease, and I think we underestimate it."

According to the CDC, symptoms of the flu include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches and fatigue.

Those at risk are children, women who are pregnant, seniors and those that have a medical condition like heart disease, lung disease or diabetes. Sharff says even certain medications you take can put you at risk of the flu.

Sharff said it's never too late to get the flu shot.

"By getting the flu shot, you're not only protecting yourself -- you're protecting the people you love," she said.

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