Official: 1st death reported in county

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

The regional director who oversees the Osage County Health Department said Thursday he had received notification of the county’s first flu death of the season.

A state document showing flu-associated hospitalizations by county from Sept. 1 through Nov. 13 showed five hospitalizations for Osage County. There were 71 such hospitalizations statewide during the specified period, and many counties showed none at all. Only two counties — Creek County with six and Tulsa County with 18 — had more than Osage County.

Larry Bergner, who oversees public health services for several Oklahoma counties including Osage, said flu season seems to have gotten off to an early start in 2018.

“The flu at this point does not seem to be as deadly as last year, but it seems to have started earlier than last year,” Bergner said in a telephone interview last Thursday.

Flu shots are available through the Osage County Health Department, located on East 15th Street in Pawhuska, he said. Bergner last week told county commissioners that 500 doses of flu vaccine had been purchased for this flu season with county tax money, and the state of Oklahoma had chipped in for another 250 doses.

Bergner also told the commissioners that groups wishing to make arrangements for “flu clinics” to be held at their locations can contact the health department and request services.

“We would be more than happy to do that,” Bergner said.

He told the Journal-Capital that it is important for residents to remember the basics in trying to prevent the spread of the flu — regular washing of hands, sanitizing of toys that children handle when playing, and staying home from work or school if one is ill.

During his remarks last week to county commissioners, Bergner also mentioned he is aware of a problem with head lice among elementary school children. He said the health department provides specialized shampoo for the schools to help them respond.

Among local schools, the Wynona Public School has encouraged parents to check their children’s hair, and stressed the importance for youngsters to avoid sharing items such as brushes and headbands.

Dr. Beverly Moore, assistant superintendent of Pawhuska Public Schools, told the Journal-Capital in a telephone interview last Thursday that preventing the spread of head lice, particularly among younger kids, is a “continual problem and always will be.” Moore said the problem tends to peak during the winter, and educators are trained how to spot and respond to lice.

Moore said she had talked with Byron Cowan, principal of Pawhuska’s upper elementary school, and learned there seems to be less difficulty with head lice at that school right now than at some points in the past.

Moore said it is critical for parents to take a leading role in responding to any head lice problem. Parents generally have to treat the entire home, not just a child’s head, to eliminate the pests, she said.

“We’re all here to help,” she said, emphasizing parents can call on educators for advice about effective responses. Moore also said the schools are grateful to the health department for providing specialized shampoo that can, in turn, be given to parents.