Is there widespread flu or bad cold virus in the valley? Half of my chorus is out sick, and a clerk at a metal fabrication business said half her staff was ill.

Is there widespread flu or bad cold virus in the valley? Half of my chorus is out sick, and a clerk at a metal fabrication business said half her staff was ill.

If it's the cold or flu I had (I still have the remnants of), it started with two days of constant coughing. Is this the annual "everyone's sick" rumor that doesn't turn out to be true?

— Ellen W., Central Point

There does seem to be something in the air right now, Ellen, or maybe several things.

Both Medford hospitals report their census is up, and a number of people have been coming into their emergency departments with symptoms that suggest influenza — fever, achiness, dry cough and total exhaustion.

Since Feb. 1, Rogue Valley Medical Center has confirmed influenza in 55 people who sought treatment, and 36 of those were confirmed within the past seven days, says hospital spokesman Grant Walker.

Some of the parents we know have told us lots of young children have been out sick from school, too, with a bug that often includes fever, stomach distress and vomiting.

Joanne Vallee, Medford School District nurse, said anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of students (and teachers) are home sick. Vallee said the school district sends pupils home if they have a fever of 100 degrees.

A story from The Associated Press that moved on the news wires Thursday notes that a flu strain that's been making lots of people sick this winter wasn't included in the vaccine that's been available since October.

That strain, called Brisbane 10, apparently has been responsible for much of this winter's influenza misery.