The new year has been slammed with influenza cases and related deaths as numbers have more than doubled in the state in January alone. In Oklahoma, flu-related hospitalizations are reported to be 2,509 since the season started in September — more than twice the number recorded the first week of January, which was 1,020.

The new year has been slammed with influenza cases and related deaths as numbers have more than doubled in the state in January alone. In Oklahoma, flu-related hospitalizations are reported to be 2,509 since the season started in September — more than twice the number recorded the first week of January, which was 1,020. Deaths have climbed much higher — reporting 92 this week, compared to the first week of January when it stood at 22. In comparison, this season's death toll looks to be quickly approaching figures tallied from entire flu seasons in the past, and this season is still just shy of the halfway mark. There were 110 flu-related deaths in the state during the previous flu season — just below of the record 114 deaths four years ago.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) said Thursday that illness is widespread and that flu-related deaths have been recorded in all regions of the state. A total of 15 deaths have been recorded in Tulsa County this season and eight in Oklahoma County, the state's most populated counties.

Pottawatomie County has reported 68 flu-related hospitalizations so far this season, which is up eight from last week; the first week in January recorded 30.

Health officials say 12 flu-related deaths occurred among people aged 18 to 49, but that most of this season's flu-related fatalities have occurred among people 50 or older, including 62 victims who were 65 or older.

The OSDH is recommending vaccination. In an effort to help combat the growing number of flu cases in Oklahoma, the OSDH is providing 650 doses of flu vaccine to the Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD) for this weekend’s Fight the Flu Drive-Thru immunization effort Saturday at Remington Park in Oklahoma City.

“Our staff stands ready to provide additional vaccine on Saturday if there is a need,” said OSDH Director of Immunization Service Lori Linstead.

The OSDH reports all county health departments around the state of Oklahoma have ample supplies of flu vaccine and immunization is recommended for all, especially those in the higher risk categories of ages one to five and over age 65.

“It is not too late to protect yourself from the flu,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley said. “The vaccine will continue to provide protection from what has been an exceptionally hard-hitting flu season.”