Officials say flu shots essential

Chris Day
The Oklahoma State Health Department recommends everyone over age 6 months have a flu shot prior to gathering for Thanksgiving. MetroCreative

State health officials urge Oklahomans to get a flu shot prior to the holidays to prevent the spread of the illness.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has recorded 63 hospitalization associated with the flu since September when flu season started. The number of flu cases is relatively high for this time of year, and public health officials fear the holiday season will create a spike in the illness.

The highest number of flu-related hospitalization has occurred among those over 50 and children five and under.

So far, Osage County has not seen any flu-associated hospitalization, according to the latest OK FluView: Weekly Influenza Activity Summary. Oklahoma County and Tulsa County lead the state with 16 and 10 reported flu hospitalization, respectively.

“It is important to stay home from holiday gatherings if you have symptoms of influenza, which are fever, chills, body aches and a cough or sore throat,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley said. “It is better to miss out on some holiday fun than risk infecting others.”

Flu is especially dangerous for pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions like asthma and other lung disease, she said.

A flu vaccination is the most effective way to avoid the flu. Influenza vaccinations are available at county health departments, medical providers and many pharmacies throughout the state. The flu vaccine is recommended for anyone age 6 months or older.

According to the health department, parents and family members of babies younger than 6 months, and those who live with or care for anyone who is at high risk for complications from the flu are advised to get a flu shot.

Got the flu?

Public health officials urge people experiencing flu-like symptoms to see a health-care provider as soon as possible. Antiviral drugs may be prescribed to treat the flu. The drugs work better if treatment is started within 48 hours of noticing symptoms.

Influenza antiviral drugs also may be prescribed as a prevention method to those who have been exposed to someone diagnosed with the flu, and are especially vulnerable.

Prevention tips

Public health officials also offered a list of prevention tips. Here they are:

• Adopt a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly and getting a full night’s rest

• Wash hands frequently using soap and water or alcohol-based products such as hand gels when hands are not visibly soiled

• Use tissues to cover coughs and sneezes, then dispose of them and wash your hands immediately. If tissues aren’t available, cough into your sleeve, not your hands

• Stay home from work, school and other public places when feeling ill