7 flu-related deaths reported at Portland-area hospitals

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The state's flu season arrived early and Portland-area emergency rooms feel it.

Hospitals reported 179 flu-related visits from the start of the flu season through Dec. 28.

As of Jan. 6, seven people had died from the flu in the Portland metro area.

State-wide numbers aren't available as the Oregon Public Health Division does not tally adult flu deaths. A five-year-old boy from Eugene died recently at Oregon Health & Science University. Ronan Burgess had received the flu vaccine but came down the H1N1 virus a few days before Christmas. Burgess collapsed on Christmas night and never woke up again.

The H1N1 virus is the predominant strain right now, hitting the young and the middle-aged hard. Oregon's Public Health Division found 84 percent of the flu victims who visited Portland-area hospitals were younger than 65, and that's unusual.

The flu season almost always peaks in Oregon in late February and early March, according to Dr. Ann Thomas of the Public Health Division.

"The only other time we've had this many hospitalizations before Christmas was in 2009, the pandemic," she said. "It's interesting that it's the same strain of flu that's circulating."

Legacy Health had 40 patients admitted with the flu across its six Portland-area hospitals as of Monday afternoon, spokeswoman Maegan Vidal said. Other hospitals did not have that information available.