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FOR RELEASE: November 18, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Flu Activity Increasing in Oklahoma - But It’s Not Too Late to Get a Flu Shot

Oklahoma State Department of Health officials say they are seeing a significant increase in influenza activity in Oklahoma and urge those who have not yet received their flu shot to do so as soon as possible.

"It takes about two weeks to develop maximum protection after receiving the vaccination, so we urge people not to delay, especially those at high risk of complications from influenza,” said Interim State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley.

Bradley said early indications are that this year’s flu season could be more severe than in years past. “Our local county health departments still have vaccine as do other health care providers, so Oklahomans should not hesitate to get their flu shot,” she emphasized.

Influenza activity as measured by sentinel physician reporting and laboratory testing in Oklahoma shows a two-fold increase for the second week of November. Influenza type A (H3N2 Panama-like) has been the only confirmed circulating influenza strain in Oklahoma. Isolated small outbreaks in schools and workplaces have been reported. The regions of the state experiencing significantly increased influenza transmission this week include the Tulsa and Oklahoma City metro areas, and the southwest region.

Influenza, also called “the flu,” is a contagious disease caused by the influenza virus. Two main types of influenza virus (type A and type B) circulate in the United States during late fall and winter. Each type of influenza has many different strains, which tend to change from year to year. The flu usually spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks and the virus is sent into the air. When a person is infected with the influenza virus they will develop symptoms in one to five days.

Unlike many other viral respiratory infections that also tend to occur during the fall and winter, influenza may cause a more severe illness. The symptoms of influenza start suddenly and typically include a fever of 100 F. or higher, chills, headache, sore throat, stuffy nose, cough, extreme tiredness, and body aches. Most people with the flu will recover completely in one to two weeks; however, some persons may develop serious and potentially life-threatening medical complications, such as pneumonia. Receiving an influenza vaccine each year is the best way to protect against the flu.

Each flu season from October through May, the Oklahoma Influenza Surveillance Program provides information on influenza activity in Oklahoma. This information is posted on the Oklahoma State Department of Health Web site at http://www.health.state.ok.us/program/cdd/flu/index.html.

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