Both the new H1N1 "swine" flu and the usual seasonal flu are active in Oregon, with 48 people hospitalized from September 1 to 26, according to the latest figures published on the state's flu Web site. (flu.oregon.gov) Young people -- everyone up to age 25 -- have less immunity to the H1N1 flu so the virus is circulating rapidly through schools and workplaces across the country.
Since the beginning of the flu pandemic in April, 12 Oregonians have died of flu complications. Kathleen Sibelius, the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, urged parents to get their children vaccinated, and for everyone in high risk groups to get the vaccination.
"We know it is safe and secure," she said speaking on CNN. "This is definitely a safe vaccine for everyone to get.
"Flu kills every year... and we have got a great vaccine to deal with it."
Experts say that the H1N1 flu is not more deadly than other flu viruses, but it is more infectious, because very few people have immunity to it. And because every flu carries the risk of causing severe illness, more people are likely to become sick.
Those most at risk include: pregnant women, children and young people from 6 months old up to age 24, and people whose health has been affected by other illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and other long-term problems. Anyone caring for babies under six months old should also be vaccinated. County Health Clinics will provide the H1N1 flu vaccine free to anyone who needs it.
Regular seasonal flu shots are available now from pharmacies and health care providers. The H1N1 flu vaccination can be given in a nasal spray
-- and community health clinics are receiving supplies this week. But that form of the vaccine is not medically recommended for some high risk groups -- pregnant women for example. Supplies of the injectable vaccine are due to arrive next week. To hear more about high risk groups and vaccinations listen here.
Protect yourself from flu by washing your hands often with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer. Protect other people if you get sick by staying home. Cover your coughs and sneezes. If you need to cough or sneeze and don't have a tissue, cough into your elbow.
Health officials say families and businesses should make plans to reduce the spread of the illness and to care for children when parents are ill.
The African American Alliance has gathered public health officials and local community leaders for "What African Americans Should Know About H1N1: Are you ready?"
Dr. Gary Oxman, health officer for the Multnomah County Health Department, will be among those engaged in the discussion. Light refreshments will be served.
Wednesday, Oct. 14, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m at Emmanuel Temple Church, 1032 N. Sumner St.
Thursday, Oct. 15, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Humboldt School, 4915 N. Gantenbein Ave.
For more information, call 503-348-5835.