While the pevalence of influenza in Oklahoma has increased from “sporadic” to “widespread,” regional health administrator Kelli Rader said last week that Osage County didn’t appear to be experiencing anything unusual for this point in the 2019-20 flu season.


“This is really early in the flu season,” Rader told the Journal-Capital. State data she shared with the newspaper showed 218 flu-associated hospitalizations statewide between Sept. 1 and Dec. 14, and another 68 hospitalizations for Dec. 15-21.


“There is just a lot of upper-respiratory junk going around,” Rader said. She said it’s important for residents to wash their hands, cover coughs, and get the flu shot if they haven’t done so already. Call the Osage County Health Department at 918-287-3740 and make an appointment to get the shot, she said, adding that it takes a couple of weeks for the shot to become effective.


Rader said she had talked with personnel at the state and Osage County levels about the upper-respiratory problems that residents are having, and learned that levels of illness don’t seem to be unusual.


On a separate note, Rader said the Osage County Health Department continues to struggle with staffing levels. The county health department is generally short-staffed, she said. Efforts are underway to fill five positions, she said.


Those positions include a full-time nurse and an administrative assistant for a Skiatook satellite office that will hopefully open in early 2020, as well as a health educator, a part-time nurse and an administrative technician, Rader said.


“We would love to open that building as soon as we can,” Rader said regarding the facility that the health department has been preparing in Skiatook. The building, itself, is about ready to go, she said. Rader also mentioned an increase in nursing salaries that will, hopefully, make health department nursing jobs more attractive.