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Flu hits Southern Oregon

Just in time for Christmas, the flu season has arrived in Southern Oregon.

Test cultures collected last week confirmed seven cases of influenza in Jackson County and two in Josephine County. A total of 18 flu cases have been reported in Oregon, said Dr. Paul Cieslak, manager of the communicable disease program for Oregon&

s Department of Human Services.

Cieslak said there&

s too little data available to predict the magnitude of this winter&

s flu season.

&

It&

s just too soon to tell,&

he said.

Cieslak said the confirmed flu cultures will be sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine whether those virus strains are the ones that were included in this year&

s flu vaccine. Those results will not be available for a while, Cieslak said.

Cieslak said the flu&

s relatively early arrival may mean that the virus season will peak earlier this winter. Last year, the flu didn&

t peak in Oregon until the third week of February.

Cieslak said there&

s still vaccine available for anyone who still wants to get a flu shot. He said vaccines provide immunity within about two weeks, so there is still plenty of time to get the benefit of the vaccine.

&

It&

s still a great time to get vaccinated,&

he said.

Many flu-shot clinics that were scheduled in October and November had to be canceled because the vaccine was distributed late.

Cieslak said the number of flu cases reported in Southern Oregon doesn&

t necessarily mean there is more sickness here. The local flu cases may just mean that physicians in the Rogue Valley are more likely than doctors in other areas to collect test cultures from their patients and send them to the state health lab for analysis.

&

I&

m skeptical about whether you&

re being hit harder than anybody else,&

he said,

Tracking the flu on the basis of lab results doesn&

t always give a true picture of what the virus is doing. He noted that lab reports are based on samples taken from patients who take the time to visit their doctors, but &

most people who have the flu don&

t go to the doctor.&

Most flu-shot clinics have already been held, but it&

s still possible to find the influenza vaccine in Southern Oregon.

As of Wednesday, the Albertson&

s pharmacy in Central Point was giving flu shots by appointment, and shots were available at the pharmacies in Bi-Mart stores on Jacksonville Highway and on Biddle Road.

Providence Medford Medical Center has scheduled a final flu shot clinic from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday at Providence Senior Services, 769 Spring St. The vaccine will be available to anyone over the age of 10.