Tribal preventive efforts keeping the flu at bay

By Danielle Frost

As the flu rages throughout Oregon this year, Tribal Health & Wellness Center preventive measures appear to be stifling any outbreak in the Grand Ronde area.

“We are still having a handful of cases each week, but are below the state average,” Health Services Executive Director Kelly Rowe said. “We have hand sanitizer and masks available as patients walk into the clinic to try and prevent spreading it as much as possible.”

The National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System, which monitors influenza and other respiratory viruses, has confirmed almost 13,000 flu cases in Oregon this season, which runs from October to April.

The Oregon Health Authority’s most recent statistics show a spike in emergency room visits for flu-like symptoms at approximately 5.5 percent, up from 4 percent last year and the highest rate in four years.

There also have been 105 reported outbreaks of the flu this season, with the bulk, 84 percent, occurring in long-term care facilities and 10 percent in schools.

Rowe said she credits the lower-than-average rates at the Tribal clinic to simple prevention measures, such as getting a flu shot, washing hands thoroughly and staying home while sick.

“It’s not too late to get vaccinated, but we (at the clinic) currently have a very limited supply, as we have vaccinated many so far this season,” she said.

The Oregon Health Authority and Centers for Disease Control provide the following tips to avoid the flu:

  • Take the time to get a flu vaccine, especially if you are in a high-risk category, which includes young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, and those 65 and older.

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to obtain medical care or other necessities.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If none is available, cough into your elbow and not your hand.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.