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Flu cases decline in Rogue Valley

But medical sources say it's too early to say whether the flu season is ending

Only time will tell whether the flu virus that emptied Southern Oregon schools before Christmas has spent itself.

Hospital admissions for flu-like symptoms have dropped since Jan. 1, and fewer children seem to be home sick from school, but some hospital officials say it's too early to say whether flu season is winding down.

Influenza typically arrives in Southern Oregon around January, said Gordon Everett, director of emergency services at Providence Medford Medical Center.

It could pick up again in late January, Everett said.

He noted that the Providence emergency department is seeing patients with flu symptoms in ones and twos per day, compared with as many as 10 per day back around Thanksgiving.

— Rogue Valley Medical Center had 48 confirmed influenza patients during November and December, but has had just nine cases so far in January, said Susan Patronik, infection control specialist. Patronik said the virus is still likely to be in the community, but more people may be staying home to treat their symptoms instead of coming to the hospital.

The two-week closure of schools for year-end holidays may have slowed the virus's spread among children, said Deena Silva, a nurse for the Medford school district.

That let things settle down a bit, Silva said.

Silva said the true number of influenza cases is always difficult to determine because many patients with flu symptoms do not undergo the tests that would determine whether they actually have been infected by the virus.

While the number of flu cases may be down, doctors and nurses in both hospitals have plenty of patients to care for. Providence's daily census has held steady at around 90 patients.

We have a high volume, but we're not at capacity, said Katy Bazylewicz, marketing director for Providence.

RVMC's census peaked at around 206 on Jan. 7, but had dropped to 162 on Monday. Both hospitals are seeing a number of pneumonia cases.

Most of them are elderly people in their 70s and 80s, said RVMC's Patronik.

Providence's Everett said older people who are generally less mobile are particularly vulnerable to pneumonia when a cold encourages fluid to accumulate in their lungs.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492, or e-mail Flu workshop for parents

Kids and influenza will be the topic of a workshop at 7 tonight at the Smullin Center on the campus of Rogue Valley Medical Center.

Dr. Michael Davis, a Medford pediatrician, will give parents tips about what to do when kids come down with the flu. Davis will explain how to bring down the fever that typically accompanies the flu, when to call the doctor and when to keep kids out of school.

The workshop is free.