OSHD: This flu season a record setter

Chris Day cday@examiner-enterprise.com

Oklahoma is officially experiencing its worst flu season since the Oklahoma State Department of Health sarting tracking flu numbers in 2009.

Last week’s flu report shows 3,440 flu hospitalizations and 153 deaths in Oklahoma since the flu season started in September. The report also indicates that more than 1,800 of those flu hospitalizations have been Oklahomans over age 65 and 400 have been under age 18.

The state health agency also confirmed the first pediataric death associated with the flu this season. The death occurred in Oklahoma for a resident between the ages of 5 and 18, according to a Health Department press release.

OSDH data indicates a total of 32 flu-associated deaths have occurred among Oklahoma children under age 18 between 2009 and the 2016-17 flu season.

The number of flu hospitalizations in the region continue to climb. As of Feb. 13, 52 people have been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms in Osage County. Washington County has experienced 65 flu hospitalizations, according to the state health agency’s OKfluview website.

The flu season will continue for several weeks, and the number of hospitalizations and deaths will continue to rise. The health agency encourages anyone over age 6 months who hasn’t received a flu shot to get one.

Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the flu vaccine is only 36 percent effective against the flu viruses in the United States.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said if you get a flu shot and still get the flu, it will be less severe and the patient is less likely to require hospitalizaiton.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has a high doses vaccine for seniors that may not be available from health-care providers. The vaccine must be administered by the end of may. The OSDH also is offering free flu vaccinations state wide at all county health department sites.

Anyone who is interested in receiving the free flu shot should contact their local health department for clinic times.

Oklahoma’s State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley said, “We have been surprised by the number of people who haven’t received the flu vaccination yet this season and are making this effort to ensure that evryone who would like a flu shot will be able to get one. It’s not too ltate to receive protection from the flu and it is important to do it now since it takes up to two weeks after receiving the vaccine to reach full effectiveness.”