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FOR RELEASE: December 6 , 2006
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 2006-2007 flu season. This first seasonal indication of influenza is from Oklahoma and Tulsa counties. Laboratory results indicate type A and type B influenza virus strains are circulating.

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 24 other states as reporting “sporadic” flu activity.

“This is the time of 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 still have flu vaccine supplies for adults and 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 where vaccine is offered in their area.

Nearly 36,000 Americans die of influenza each year and as many as 200,000 are hospitalized. Persons over 6 months of age are encouraged to be vaccinated to lower their risk of influenza. Persons in the following risk categories are especially advised to get a flu shot:

  • Children aged 6–59 months
  • Women who will be pregnant during influenza season
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, asthma, kidney disease, anemia and other blood disorders, and metabolic diseases such as diabetes
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu

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.

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated, but 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, not your hands.
  • Clean your hands frequently, especially 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.
  • If you get influenza or any respiratory illness, avoid exposing others. Stay home from work or school and other public places like shopping centers until your symptoms improve.
  • Keep yourself healthy. Eat right, get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, 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, 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.

Because the use of aspirin for children with influenza has been associated with Reye syndrome, health officials caution that aspirin should not be given to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms, particularly fever. Use instead medications such as acetaminophen to relieve fever and muscle aches associated with flu.
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For more information about influenza, contact the county health department in your area or check out this OSDH 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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