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FOR RELEASE: December 14, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Influenza Confirmed in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) today announced the first laboratory confirmation of influenza activity in the state for the 2004-2005 season. The OSDH tracks influenza activity each year using a sentinel-reporting network of medical clinics and laboratories distributed regionally across the state. This first indication of influenza is from the Tulsa metropolitan region. No other regions of the state have reported positive influenza tests so far this season. Preliminary laboratory results indicate the circulating strain to be type A influenza virus. This year’s flu vaccine protects against two different strains of type A and one strain of type B influenza virus. Other nearby states that have reported confirmed influenza activity include Texas, Colorado and Kansas.

“This is the normal time of the year that we begin to see influenza in Oklahoma. Flu season usually runs between October through March in our state,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher. “Most previously healthy people recover from influenza, but persons at risk for hospitalization or serious complications from the flu, such as older adults and children aged 6 – 23 months, should seek immunization if they haven’t already done so. However, it’s always good health practices to wash hands frequently, cover your cough, and avoid touching the face to decrease the spread of respiratory illness,” he advised.

Last week the Oklahoma State Department of Health expanded its influenza vaccination guidelines to include adults age 50 and older; household contacts of high priority persons, such as children or adults suffering from severe heart or lung disease or immunosuppressive conditions; and persons who work in critical service professions such as police, firefighters, teachers, and health care workers not yet vaccinated.

In addition to those persons included in the revised guidelines, state health officials say persons considered at high risk for complications from influenza should still seek immediate influenza vaccination if they have not yet been vaccinated, including 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.

Public health officials suggest the following recommendations to help prevent illness:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze – and dispose of the issue afterward.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
  • Clean your hands after you cough or sneeze – with soap and warm water, or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Use a standard household cleaner to regularly clean surfaces that are touched or handled frequently like doorknobs, water faucets, refrigerator handles and telephones that can also spread the influenza virus.
  • If you get influenza or any respiratory illness, avoid exposing others. Stay home from work or school and other public places like shopping centers.
  • Keep yourself healthy. Eat right, get plenty of rest, and engage in moderate exercise on a regular basis.
  • Ask your doctor if you should be vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia, which is a common and potentially serious complication of the flu, especially for those age 65 or older. Unlike the influenza vaccine, the pneumococcal vaccine does not need to be given every year.

Other viral respiratory infections that also occur during the fall and winter may cause “flu-like” symptoms, but influenza tends to 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 influenza will recover completely in one to two weeks; however, some persons may develop serious and potentially life-threatening medical complications, such as pneumonia.

People who become severely ill with flu-like symptoms should see a physician, who may prescribe one of the anti-viral drugs now available for the treatment of influenza virus infections. Once you arrive at a physician’s office or clinic you may be asked to sit apart in a separate waiting room and to cover your mouth with a face mask to help prevent any further spread of germs.

For more information about influenza prevention tips, or to find out about local influenza clinics or the pneumococcal vaccine, contact the county health department in your area.

Note to Editors:
All influenza activity reporting by states and health-care providers is voluntary. The reported information answers the questions of where, when, and what influenza viruses are circulating. It can be used to determine if influenza activity is increasing or decreasing, but surveillance information cannot be used to ascertain how many people have become ill with influenza during the influenza season.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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