EUGENE, Ore. -- Health officials have seen a sudden spike in flu season across Oregon.
Flu season came on late at the end of 2013. The week of Christmas 81 people were admitted to Oregon hospitals for the flu, up from only 18 cases reported just two weeks earlier. Most have been H1N1.
"We'll see increasing amounts of the disease for the next few weeks before it peaks," said Dr. Joe Berees, a flu expert for the Centers for Disease Control. "More people will get it and more people will get severely ill."
Portland's KPTV News reports that a 5-year-old Eugene boy died at Doernbecher hospital from H1N1. The boy's mother told their reporters her child suffered traumatic brain damage after collapsing days earlier on Christmas Eve.
A hospital spokesperson could only say their facilities had two flu patient deaths, an adult and a child. Health regulations prevented them from sharing more information.
Last week, a state health report listed "zero" child deaths, so this would be the first child flu death of the year.
H1N1 was called the "swine flu" in 2009, when a worldwide pandemic killed nearly 300,000 people. It's a combination of swine, bird and human influenza strains.
Unlike the pandemic year of 2009, this season's flu vaccine protects against the H1N1 strain of influenza.
H1N1 is a different variety of flu, because it doesn't just go after people with weakened immune systems, or the elderly and very young. A disproportionate number of people infected with H1N1 are young and healthy.
"A lot of these younger people may not be vaccinated," said Jonathan Modie, a spokesman for the Oregon Public Health division.
That means more people might be carriers and have the potential to spread it around.
Health officials say it's not too late to get vaccinated. Yet roughly half the U.S. population hasn't gotten a flu shot yet.
Younger children or those that haven't received the flu shot before sometimes require a two-part flu vaccination. For the vaccination to be fully effective patients must receive both shots, Lane Public health spokesman Jason Davis said.
If you choose not to get a flu shot, studies have shown there are a few things you can do to keep from getting sick. First, stay away from sick people and wash your hands regularly. Perhaps even more importantly, don't let your hands touch your face.
A recent report also found a few other things could help: get plenty of sleep, eat lots of produce, exercise regularly, and stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
For more tips on how to protect against the flu visit the CDC's website.