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FOR RELEASE: December 14 , 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Influenza Confirmed in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced today the first laboratory confirmation of influenza activity in the state for the 2005-2006 flu season. This first indication of influenza is from Wagoner County. Preliminary laboratory results indicate the strain to be type A influenza virus.

The OSDH tracks influenza activity each year using a sentinel-reporting network of medical clinics and laboratories distributed regionally across the state.* No other regions of the state have reported positive influenza tests so far this season. Oklahoma will now join 29 other states as reporting “sporadic” flu activity.

“This is the normal time of the year that we begin to see influenza in Oklahoma. Flu season can start as early as October and run as late as May in our state,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher. “Although we now know that we have influenza in Oklahoma, it is not too late to get a flu shot if you haven’t already done so.”

Crutcher said most county health departments have depleted their flu vaccine supplies for adults due to an overwhelming response for vaccine this year. Many county health departments, however, may still have vaccine available for uninsured children. Persons who need a flu shot for themselves or their children should contact their health care provider or their county health department to see what vaccine is available in their area.

Nearly 36,000 Americans die of influenza each year; health officials estimate about 400 to 500 are Oklahomans. 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 to 23 months, should get a flu shot.

State health officials also advise practicing “those things Mom always told you,” to decrease the spread of respiratory viruses, including washing hands frequently, covering your cough, and avoiding touching the face.

Other recommendations to help prevent flu and respiratory illnesses include the following:

  • 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.

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.

For more information about influenza, contact the county health department in your area or check out this Oklahoma State Department of Health Web site: http://www.health.state.ok.us/program/cdd/flu/index.html.

*Note to Editors: Unlike many communicable diseases that are required to be reported to state health departments, 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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