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FOR RELEASE: January 7, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Flu and Upper Respiratory Illnesses Spreading in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Department of Health confirmed today that the state is experiencing an outbreak of influenza as well as a noticeable rise in upper respiratory illnesses that have symptoms similar to influenza.

Health officials stress that this is the "flu season" -- the time of year when they expect to see an increase in influenza and upper respiratory, "flu-like" illnesses.

Influenza is characterized by the sudden onset of symptoms including fever of at least 100 degrees, muscle aches, fatigue, and dry cough. Several upper respiratory viruses have similar symptoms but they begin slowly and persons with these illnesses are likely to have felt "something coming on."

Among the viruses now circulating through the state are influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), rhinovirus and parainfluenza. Cultures sent to the State Public Health Laboratory from physicians participating in an influenza surveillance program confirm the circulating influenza virus to be Influenza Type A/Sydney (H3N2), which is contained in the influenza vaccine.

State health officials continue to encourage persons who have not yet received a flu shot to do so, especially people over 65 years of age, immunocompromised persons, diabetics, and persons with lung or heart diseases/disorders, such as emphysema or congestive heart failure. The vaccine increases the protection they need to help prevent complications of influenza, like pneumonia. And because secondary bacterial pneumonia is one of the more serious and frequent complications resulting from influenza, persons in the high risk group should also talk with their health care provider about receiving a pneumonia (pneumococcal) vaccination.

Health officials caution that it takes up to two weeks for the flu vaccine to become effective and any exposure to the influenza virus during that period may result in the flu. For those who have already received the flu vaccine, a second flu shot is not recommended. Antiviral medications can be prescribed by your physician to reduce the severity and duration of influenza illness; however, these must be administered within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

Health officials suggest that if you have upper respiratory, "flu-like" symptoms, drink lots of water or other non-alcoholic, noncaffeinated fluids to prevent dehydration and get plenty of rest. One of the most effective ways to stop the spread of respiratory viruses is frequent and thorough hand washing. In addition, cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and stay home from work or school, especially during the early stages of the disease.

Persons interested in obtaining a flu shot can contact their health care provider, county health department, local pharmacies, or home health care agencies to see if they still have flu vaccine available.



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