As the number of flu-related hospitalizations continues to increase, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) reminds Oklahomans there is still time to get a flu shot.
OSDH reports a total of nine deaths and 517 hospitalizations associated with the flu since the season began in September. Okfuskee, Payne and Carter counties have each had one death, while Garfield, Stephens and Oklahoma counties have each had two deaths so far this influenza season. More than half of hospitalizations have occurred among individuals 65 years and older.
“It is very important to get a flu shot as we are heading in to peak season for influenza,” said Leslie J. Covey, public information officer for the Adair, Haskell, McIntosh, LeFlore and Sequoyah County Health Departments. “We have a total of nine deaths for Oklahoma at this time, along with over 500 hospitalizations. Some area hospitals and physicians do not report influenza cases so the number of hospitalizations could be higher.
“It is also important to remember that even if you take a flu shot today, it can take up to two weeks to take effect, therefore, you can still be exposed to persons with influenza and possibly catch the illness. Practicing good hygiene, covering your face when sneezing and coughing, washing your hands frequently can also help to protect you against influenza. It’s not too late to vaccinate.”
Public health influenza vaccination clinics are available at county health departments, medical providers and retailers throughout the state. OSDH wants to remind Oklahomans that everyone is at risk for influenza and the flu vaccination is recommended for anyone six months of age and older.
Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk for serious illness from flu including: pregnant women, children younger than five years of age and people with asthma, diabetes, chronic heart and lung disease and other chronic conditions. Parents and family members of babies younger than 6 months of age and people who live with or care for anyone at high risk for complications from the flu, including health care workers, should also get the vaccine.
The following types of flu vaccine are available:
*The traditional flu shot which protects against four strains of flu.
*The nasal spray flu vaccine, which protects against four strains of flu, is for healthy people who are not pregnant and are ages 2-49. Studies have shown this vaccine was more effective among younger children. However, if the nasal spray vaccine is not immediately available, parents should not delay in getting children vaccinated.
*The high-dose flu shot for persons age 65 years and older which protects against three strains of flu.
It is important for those experiencing flu-like symptoms to consult with a provider as soon as possible. A provider may prescribe antiviral drugs to treat the flu. These drugs work better for treatment when started within 48 hours of noticing symptoms. Antiviral drugs may be indicated as a prevention measure to prevent especially vulnerable persons such as infants less than 6 months old, or persons of any age with a medical condition which severely suppresses their immune system.
In addition to getting a flu shot, public health officials recommend the following prevention tips:
Frequent hand washing using soap and water, or alcohol-based products such as hand gels when hands are not visibly soiled.
Make “respiratory hygiene” a habit, including use of tissues to cover coughs and sneezes, then disposing of them and washing hands at once. When tissues are not readily available, use your sleeve, never your hands.
Stay home from work, school, and other public places when a person is ill.
Click HERE to support the Journal.
To submit a story or information, please send an email to [email protected].