October begins flu season; vaccines ready
With the arrival of pumpkins and falling leaves, flu season is now upon us.
According to OK FluView, at ok.gov, the first week of October — when the site began tracking the new flu season — reports five Oklahoma residents have been hospitalized for influenza-associated reasons since Aug. 30; two of those were between Sept. 20 and Sept. 26.
Of the regions, one case was from the Northwest, one in the Northeast, one in East Central, and two were from Tulsa County. None were reported this week in the Central region, of which Pottawatomie County is a part.
Four of the cases were Oklahoma residents 65 and older, and the other was a child under 4 years old.
There was no county data available on the site Thursday.
No flu-related deaths have been reported so far.
County health departments and area health care providers began offering vaccinations Thursday in preparation for the new flu season.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at cdc.gov, a flu vaccine is recommended by the end of October, before flu begins spreading in the community.
The flu vaccine can keep a person from getting the flu and make the illness less severe if a person gets it, the site reports.
“It is critically important this year that every Oklahoman who can get the flu shot does so right away,” Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye, said. “This is a great method of preventing the spread of influenza in our communities, and I urge Oklahomans to take this proactive step.”
During the last flu season, 3,580 Oklahoma residents were hospitalized because of flu-related illnesses — including 383 children under age four – and 85 Oklahomans died, including three children under age 17.
CDC has worked with vaccine manufacturers to have extra flu vaccine available this flu season, and Oklahoma will distribute 400,000 flu vaccine this year.
While flu vaccines will not prevent COVID-19, they will reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths on the health care system and conserve scarce medical resources for the care of people with COVID-19.
For more information, call (405) 271-7200 or visit fightflu.health.ok.gov.
Season in the region
Usually, across the state, flu season begins its gradual tick upward in December, ramping up significantly in January and February. According to data from previous years, the season typically tapers off some time in April.
OK FluView issues new data each Thursday throughout flu season.
For more information, visit ok.gov/health/Prevention_and_Preparedness/Acute_Disease_Service/Disease_Information/OK_Flu_View.html.
Flu prevention tips
In addition to getting a flu shot, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reminds the community to follow these prevention tips:
• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after being in a public place, or after blowing the nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
• Outside the home, put six feet of distance between oneself and people who don’t live in the same household.
• Everyone should wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in the same household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
• Stay home from work, school and other public places if ill. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• 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 a sleeve, never hands.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
• Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms of respiratory illness and take a temperature if symptoms develop. Call a health care provider for advice if experiencing symptoms.
Information from The Oklahoma State Health Department, at ok.gov.
Watch for updates.