McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

January 23, 2013

FLU:

McAlester Urgent Care treats 82 cases of flu so far this year

SEAN MURPHY
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — The flu season is in full swing in the McAlester area, with  many of those stricken pouring into health care providers in the city.

“Certainly, we’ve seen an influx in seasonal flu and non-flu viral infections,” said Dr. Dennis Staggs, director of emergency services at the McAlester Regional Health Center.

Despite the influx of patients, emergency personnel at the McAlester hospital have been able to handle the situation and have not diverted any patients to other facilities because of the patient load, according to Staggs.

Patients have also been pouring into the Urgent Care facility on the McAlester hospital’s campus.

“During January, we’ve had 82 confirmed cases of the flu,” Jackie Turnbull, R.N., said Tuesday from the Urgent Care offices in McAlester.

Judy Sutton, an LPN at the McAlester Urgent Care facility, said the patients have not been confined to any one age group.

“It’s all ages,” Turnbull said. When the regular waiting room becomes too full, “We have an outside lobby where people can wait,” Sutton said.

The flu season appears to have hit the McAlester area heaviest with the new year.

“It hit in January — it’s not slacking off,” Sutton said.

As for ways to try and avoid the flu, she advised to get a vaccination and use good hand-washing practices. Those who already have flu symptoms should “cover the cough” to keep from spreading the illness, she said.

Meanwhile, the flu vaccine supply on hand at the Urgent Care facility was dwindling.

“We have 20 vaccinations left,” Sutton said Tuesday.

Patients have also been pouring into the Warren Clinic in McAlester.

“It’s been really pretty steady with flu cases over the last 10 days or two weeks,” Dr. Larry Lewis said Tuesday. “There’s been a steady stream.”

He noticed an increase in flu activity this year when compared with some of the years past.

“It’s had more of an impact this year than we’ve seen over the past couple of years,” Lewis said.,

For the week of Jan. 13-18 alone, the lab at the Warren Clinic tested 77 patients for influenza.

“Thirty were positive,” Lewis said, with 20 of the patients testing positive for the A strain and 10 testing positive for the B strain.

Genetic material differentiates the two strains, according to health experts.

Influenza A can cause moderate to severe illness in all age groups and infects humans and other animals. Influenza B causes milder disease and affects only humans, primarily children, according to the Immunization Action Coalition website.

The Warren Clinic has plenty of vaccine on hand, Lewis  said early Tuesday.

As of Jan. 15, there had been eight influenza deaths statewide, including the death of one adult male in Pittsburg County, said Pittsburg County Health Department Administrator Mike Echelle.

During the time period running from Sept. 30 to Jan. 15, the had been 484 influenza hospitalizations statewide, he said.

Echelle expected that number to rise with the release of updated numbers from the Oklahoma State Department of Health this week.

As of Tuesday morning, the Pittsburg County Health Department was down to 12 doses of vaccinations for adults; 72 vaccines for children and 34 “high dose” influenza vaccinations for individuals 65 and older, Echelle said.

He expected to get an additional supply of vaccines delivered this week.

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