McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

January 30, 2014

Flu not so bad in area: Still, 25 deaths recorded in state

Across the state, 115 people were hospitalized or died from influenza Jan. 22-28, bringing the cumulative total to 819 since the flu season began in October.

State Health Department officials reported during that same time frame, six patients were admitted to hospitals in Enid, two in Woodward County and one each in Noble and Blaine counties.

The flu has caused 25 deaths statewide so far, but no deaths in northwest Oklahoma.

Although the number of people in the area being stricken by flu might seem high, an epidemiologist for Oklahoma Department of Health said regional numbers are not so bad in northwest Oklahoma.

“That’s actually the lowest rate of hospitalizations for the state,” Kendra Dougherty said.

Dougherty said this is the peak of the flu season, which runs through May. She said some pharmacies and medical clinics still have flu shots available and that it is not too late to be vaccinated.

“Take a lot of personal prevention measures, try not to spread your germs,” Dougherty said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that flu is a serious, contagious disease. CDC recommends a three-pronged approach:

• A flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older, especially those at high risk. People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, those with chronic health conditions and people 65 and older. Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for them should be vaccinated instead.

• Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs. Avoid close contact with sick people. If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated.

• Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the duration of the illness. They also can prevent serious flu complications. For people with high risk factors, treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay. Studies show antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within two days of getting sick, but starting them later still can be helpful.

Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea. People can be infected with the flu, and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

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