Swine flu cases falling
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Friday, December 04, 2009
12/04/09 at 4:03 AM
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No deaths from swine flu were reported in Oklahoma last week, and hospitalizations fell drastically as the H1N1 pandemic appears to be slowing down in the state, according to the state's weekly Flu View report released Thursday.
The state's flu status was downgraded to regional from widespread, as most flu cases are centered in Tulsa and southwestern Oklahoma, the report says.
But state and local health officials say the novel flu virus is still circulating and that people shouldn't let down their guard.
"It's not unimaginable that there could be another wave," said Tulsa City-County Health Department spokeswoman Melanie Christian.
Seventeen Oklahomans were hospitalized because of complications from the swine flu last week, down from 31 the previous week, the report said.
So far this year, 962 hospitalizations of Oklahomans have been associated with the H1N1 virus; 521 were children, and 58 were pregnant, the report says.
Thirty-seven Oklahomans have died from it, the report says.
Twenty-four of those who died had underlying conditions that increased their risk of complications, including asthma and other respiratory diseases, diabetes, obesity and immune-compromising conditions, the report says.
Dr. Kristy Bradley, the state epidemiologist, said, "We're getting a little bit of a breather from the flu, but it hasn't left completely.
"There is still a risk of exposure, so people still need to get the vaccine."
Also, children younger than 10 need to get a booster 28 days after their first dose of the H1N1 vaccine.
"The activity levels and the rate of spread have slowed, but flu infections are still being identified," Bradley said.
People still need to wash their hands frequently, cover their coughs and sneezes, and stay home when sick, she said. Those practices will protect people from other respiratory viruses that are beginning to increase, she said.
"Yes, flu activity is declining, and we're very happy and relieved to see that occurring," Bradley said. "But our concern is that people will become complacent."
Lines were short at the swine flu vaccination clinic at Tulsa Community College's West Campus on Thursday afternoon, much to the dismay of health officials.
Christian said only 1,511 people showed up to get vaccinated. About 3,819 showed up two days before Thanksgiving for the vaccination. "It appears interest in H1N1 vaccine may be waning," she said.
But at this time of year when people spend more time indoors with family or at large gatherings for the holidays or for shopping, Christian urged people to get vaccinated.
"We're not out of the woods yet," she said.
The H1N1 slowdown appears to be a nationwide trend, and federal health officials also continue to urge people to get vaccinated against the virus.
"There's been a decline in activity, but there's still lots of flu," Thomas Frieden, the director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a news conference this week.
"The flu virus is unpredictable. We can't be sure of what will happen in the future," he said.
The 1957-58 flu pandemic was similar to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, Frieden said.
"There was a large surge in cases at the beginning of the school year, then a waning of cases, and then in December, January, February, there was a big increase in the number of people who were severely ill or who died," Frieden said.
"We don't know if that will happen this year. We do know that the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself."
Christian noted that it isn't too late to be vaccinated against the H1N1 virus. The Health Department continues to offer free vaccinations during scheduled clinics.
"There really is concern there could be another wave," she said.
Next vaccination clinic Dec. 12
The next Tulsa City-County Health Department H1N1
vaccination clinic is set for 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 12 at the Oral
Roberts University Mabee Center, 7777 S. Lewis Ave.
The Health Department also provides the vaccine to pregnant
women, children and people with limited mobility at its
three regional health centers from 8 a.m. to p.m. Mondays
through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Fridays.
The centers are:
James O. Goodwin Health Center, 5051 S. 129th East Ave.
Central Regional Health Center, 315 S. Utica Ave.
Expo Square Health Center, 616 E. 15th St.
The state’s H1N1 hot line, (866) 278-713 , is answered from
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Source: Tulsa Health Department; Oklahoma State Department of Health
Kim Archer 581-8315
Benjamin Firey, 2, held by his mother, Laura Firey, jumps as he is given an H1N1 flu vaccination by nurse Travis Fields at the Tulsa Community College West Campus on Thursday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Walker Coleman, 2, gives his mom, Shannon Coleman, a high-five after he received an H1N1 vaccination at Tulsa Community College West Campus on Thursday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World