On Thursday, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced the first death caused by the flu in the state. The death occurred in Tulsa County in a patient who was at least 65 years old or older.

On Thursday, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced the first death caused by the flu in the state. The death occurred in Tulsa County in a patient who was at least 65 years old or older.

There have been 53 influenza-associated hospitalizations reported statewide so far this season.

The majority of flu-related hospitalizations have been in Tulsa (16), while 11 have been noted in east central Oklahoma and eight have been reported in the southwestern region of the state. The northeastern area reports seven so far, while central and Oklahoma County each count four. Two have been noted in the northwest and one in the southeast. Oklahomans of all ages have been hospitalized due to influenza-related causes; but, the highest rate has been among those older than 50.

So far, in the central region there have been few flu-related hospitalizations reported — only 4. Three were in Cleveland County and the other case was in Canadian County, which borders the eastern side of Oklahoma County.

Of the counties surrounding Pottawatomie, only two have reported flu-related hospitalizations so far — both to the east: Cleveland County — 3; and Oklahoma County — 4 (Oklahoma County counts as its own region). Lincoln, McClain, Okfuskee, Pontotoc and Seminole Counties have reported no flu-related hospitalizations.

Of the cases hospitalized across the state, 26 have been in patients 65 or older; 14 were in patients 50 to 64; nine cases were those age 18 to 49; three were from 5 years old to 17; and there has been one case in a patient 4 years old or younger.

“Influenza A (H3N2) and Influenza B/Victoria viruses have circulated at similar levels for the season overall,” the OK Flu View website states.

Nation

Flu View reports the first two pediatric flu-related deaths of the season were reported to the CDC this week — one was Flu A and the other was Flu B; the states were these occurred were not named.

Maryland is noted as having widespread flu activity and Louisiana's flu activity is noted as regional.

Six states have been named to local flu activity: Arizona, California, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. Most other states are considered having sporadic activity. Rhode Island reports no flu activity so far. Nevada offered no report.

What to do

The OSDH reminds the public that this is just the beginning of the flu season.

“The single best way to protect against flu and its consequences is to get the flu vaccine,” OSDH reports. County health departments are providing flu immunizations at no out-of-pocket costs and pharmacies and health care providers also have vaccine available, OSDH said.

“Health officials urge everyone 6 months old and older to get the vaccine to protect themselves and those around them from influenza, especially babies too young to receive a vaccination,” the department warns. High-dose vaccine also is available for those older than 65.

“It takes about two weeks after getting a flu shot for a person’s immune system to respond and provide defenses against influenza viruses,” the website states.

Those who already have the flu can spread it to others even before they feel sick. One may have the flu if they have some or all of these symptoms:

• Fever

• Cough

• Sore throat

• Runny or stuffy nose

• Body aches

• Headache

• Chills

• Fatigue

The OSDH reports it is important for those experiencing flu-like symptoms to consult with a health care provider as soon as possible.

Antiviral drugs may be prescribed to treat the flu. These drugs work better for treatment when started within 48 hours of noticing symptoms. Influenza antiviral drugs may also be indicated as a prevention measure to protect those who have just been exposed to someone diagnosed with influenza and are especially vulnerable.

Certain people are at greater risk of serious flu-related complications. Young children, elderly, pregnant women and people with some long-term medical conditions are reminded to contact their health care provider as soon as they develop flu symptoms.

The OSDH recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone. Avoid going to work, school, social events and public gatherings as well as traveling and shopping. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as acetaminophen before returning to a regular routine. To prevent the spread of the flu, the public is reminded to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and wash hands often.

For more information, visit the Ok Flu View at flu.health.ok.gov.