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FOR RELEASE: October 11, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Health Officials Urge Use of Basic Hygiene and Other
Precautions to Help Prevent the Spread of Influenza

The Oklahoma State Department of Health today urged Oklahomans to begin practicing measures to help prevent the spread of influenza as a result of the nationwide shortage of influenza vaccine.

As state and county public health officials work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, home health agencies, employers and others to try to determine where and how much influenza vaccine will be available in Oklahoma, they urged residents to consider other options to try to stay healthy during influenza season.

“Those simple, common sense measures – ‘things mom told you’ – really can make a difference in reducing the risk of colds and influenza,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher.

“Since many of us will not be getting our flu shot this year, it is more important than ever that we all observe the following simple precautions,” Crutcher noted.

  • Wash your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, then use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with persons who are ill.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Seek medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms of influenza: unusually high fever, sore throat, headache, runny or stuffy nose, extreme tiredness, muscle aches, and dry cough.
  • There is no such thing as the “stomach flu.” Vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and other stomach distress can sometimes be related to influenza, especially in children, but these problems are rarely the main symptoms of influenza.

“Our top priority is to get any vaccine that will be available to those who
will need it most,” Crutcher said. Those high risk groups include:

  • All children ages 6 - 23 months.
  • Adults 65 and older.
  • Persons aged 2 - 64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions.
  • All women who will be pregnant during the influenza season.
  • Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
  • Children aged 6 months - 18 years who are on chronic aspirin therapy.
  • Health care workers involved in direct patient care.
  • Out of home caregivers and household contacts of children aged less than 6 months.

A possible vaccination option for persons not considered at high risk is the intranasally administered, live, attenuated influenza vaccine, FluMist™. If available through private providers, FluMist™ is encouraged for healthy persons who are aged 5 to 49 years and are not pregnant, particularly health-care workers, first responders, and persons caring for children aged 6 months or younger.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health’s influenza surveillance system has not confirmed any cases of influenza thus far this influenza season. “Although influenza can make you feel miserable, for most healthy people it is not a serious health problem,” said Crutcher. “For those whose health conditions may make them vulnerable to complications from influenza, however, influenza can be very dangerous. That’s why we need Oklahomans to make thoughtful decisions about whether or not they should get an influenza shot this year and to practice good handwashing and respiratory hygiene to prevent the spread of influenza.”

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