Health officials: Flu season underway, could be a bad year

EUGENE, Ore. -- Flu season is off to an early start, and the Centers for Disease Control said that most of the cases reported this year have been linked to the more severe strains of the flu virus.

Fortunately for Lane County residents, most of the flu cases reported have been in the southern states.

Jason Davis, an employee with Lane County Health and Human Services, said that the Willamette Valley has seen a relatively small number of influenza cases.

"Statewide the numbers are a little different ... we are looking at 4.4 percent up in Multnomah County and 2.6 percent up in the north coast regions." said Davis.

However the CDC still warns that this year's outbreak could be severe as the flu season kicks into full gear.

Officials from the CDC added that the outbreak of the flu virus (generally seen further into winter) hit the U.S. earlier than usual.

The first cases were recorded in Texas, and the virus spread eastward across the southern states.

The rapid spread some health officials a little worried. Davis said that the last time the flu virus had a strong start was in 2009, back when the H1-N1 virus swept across the nation.

Davis added that during a strong outbreak like that, the flu can kill up to 50,000 people.

"When we are talking about influenza, we are not talking about the stomach flu," said Davis. "We are talking about people with a serious repository illness that targets our most at risk populations our older people and our younger community members."

The CDC said that the best way to prevent the flu is to get a vaccination, adding that this year's vaccine is well matched to protect the immune system from the strains that they are seeing this year.