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For Release:  September 17, 2009                                             
Contact: Pamela Williams|                        
Office of Communications                        
405/271-5601

H1N1 Flu Impacts Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced today that the H1N1 influenza virus (swine flu) has contributed to the death of a Carter County man and is responsible for an increase in the number of new influenza-related hospitalizations reported in the state in the past week.

“Our sympathies go out to this individual’s family,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “This death is a sad reminder that the H1N1 flu virus can be a serious threat.”

This is the second swine flu death in the state since the outbreak began last spring. Both victims did have underlying medical conditions.

Current surveillance of influenza-like illness in Oklahoma indicates that the virus appears to be widespread in the state. “It is unusually early in the flu season to be at this high level of activity,” Cline noted.

Since the H1N1 virus continued to circulate this summer following its appearance in the spring, health officials believe it is the virus contributing to illness, given that it is too early in the flu season for regular, or seasonal influenza, to appear.

Beginning Sept. 1, the OSDH initiated a new influenza surveillance system designed to monitor reports of all influenza-associated hospitalizations and deaths occurring in Oklahoma to determine the severity of the disease, monitor trends, and further evaluate risk factors for the H1N1 flu virus. In the past week, 20 new hospitalizations have been reported to the OSDH, for a total of 27 since this surveillance began. Thirteen of the 27 hospitalizations have been patients under 18 years of age.

“Most people have little or no immunity to the ‘new flu’ and the illness may be severe for some,” said Cline. “Flu should not be taken lightly. Regular seasonal influenza results in some 36,000 deaths in the nation each year.”

Symptoms of influenza include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some persons also report diarrhea and vomiting.

“Persons who are ill should not go to work or school and should keep away from others as much as possible,” Cline said. “For mild flu symptoms, it may not be necessary to see a doctor, however, if you are pregnant or have a health condition like diabetes, heart disease, asthma or emphysema, do check with your health care provider about appropriate treatment.”

In particular, sick persons should seek immediate medical care if they have trouble breathing; have purple or blue discoloration of the lips; are vomiting and unable to keep liquids down; have signs of dehydration such as dizziness when standing, absence of urination or in infants, a lack of tears when they cry; have seizures; or are less responsive than normal or become confused.

Cline encouraged Oklahomans to get a seasonal flu and H1N1 flu vaccination when they are available in their area. Seasonal flu vaccine is now offered through many health care providers and some pharmacies. Local county health departments should have seasonal flu vaccine by early October. “This shot is different from the H1N1 vaccine and will protect against this year’s seasonal influenza virus strains. The shot will be available for anyone who wants to be protected against seasonal flu, including children 6 months and older,” he said.

Shipments of the new H1N1 vaccine are expected to arrive in Oklahoma beginning early to mid October. State and local public health officials will be implementing a plan to provide the vaccine first to those key populations that are most impacted by the new H1N1 virus, including the following:

  • Pregnant women
  • People caring for infants less than 6 months of age
  • Children and young adults from 6 months to 24 years of age
  • Persons aged 25 to 64 who have underlying medical conditions
  • Health care workers and emergency medical responders

To help prevent the flu, follow these flu prevention recommendations:

  • Cover your cough.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • If you have a fever, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever has ended without the use of fever-lowering medications.
  • Get a vaccine when it becomes available.

            For more information about influenza, visit http://h1n1.health.ok.gov or www.flu.gov, or call your local county health department.

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