Flu reports on the rise in Oklahoma
After a relatively quiet early influenza season, officials with the state health department said more Oklahomans are coming down with the nasty bug.
The state flu activity report mirrors what is going on nationally. For the week ending Feb. 28, the level of flu activity as measured by physician reporting and laboratory testing in Oklahoma was reported as “regional.” During the week that ended Feb. 21, 27 states reported “widespread” influenza activity, and another 17 states reported “regional” activity, the two highest levels designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The flu is not an officially reportable illness in Oklahoma, so no one knows exactly how many people are sick at any one time. The Oklahoma State Health Department uses a voluntary system of physicians who report how many patients they see each week who test positive for the flu.
Carter County Health Department Administrative Director Mendy Spohn said the number of flu cases in southern Oklahoma is still low in comparison to previous years.
“I think we will see more activity in the next week or so,” she said. “Our peak will be much later this year.”
The flu season peaked in February in 2008 and 2009. Oklahoma’s flu season generally runs from October through May.
Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Symptoms include high fever, headache, extreme fatigue, chills, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. In many cases, antiviral medications can shorten the length of the illness.
The flu occurs every winter in the United States and strikes between 5 and 20 percent of the population. Seniors, young children and people with certain health conditions are at high risk for serious flu complications, which may sometimes be fatal.
Spohn said because the flu has peaked later during the past several years, getting a vaccine later in the season might offer better protection.
“We recommend waiting until late October or November,” she said. “Even after Christmas is not too late.”
Obviously, the best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get immunized. You can also prevent the spread of the illness by practicing healthy behaviors. When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose. Wash your hands often or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. And stay home from work, school and church when you are sick.
There is evidence that flu viruses are becoming resistant to one of the most commonly prescribed antiviral medications for the flu, Tamiflu. The evidence is strong enough that the CDC has urged physicians to prescribe Relenza in some cases to combat the symptoms of the flu.
Contact Daily Ardmoreite writer Steve Biehn at email@example.com