Oklahoma death toll from flu now 8; disease widespread
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Friday, January 11, 2013
1/11/13 at 7:20 AM
Related story: Flu season hits hard in some areas of U.S.
Six more people have died from the flu in Oklahoma, where the disease is now widespread.
The flu has hit earlier than normal this year, and this has meant long lines at emergency rooms, particularly during the holiday season, when many doctors weren't seeing patients, said Dr. Mark Rowland, epidemiologist with Saint Francis Health System.
"This is what influenza does," he said. "It hits you hard and clogs up the health system."
The total number of deaths in Oklahoma this season is eight. Three of those have been in Tulsa County. Others have been in Creek, Mayes, Muskogee, Pittsburg and Rogers counties, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Four of the people who died were age 19 to 64, and four were 65 or older. The Health Department does not typically investigate whether a person who died from the flu had an underlying medical condition.
Nearly 100 hospitalizations because of the flu were reported in Oklahoma from Jan. 2 through Tuesday, bringing the total since Sept. 30 to 345. Tulsa County accounts for 115 of those hospitalizations.
Oklahoma is one of 29 states reporting high flu activity and one of 41 states to report widespread geographic activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rowland said flu numbers in Oklahoma started to spike in the middle of December.
With about 25 percent of Kiefer Public Schools students sick with the flu, officials have decided not to have classes Friday.
"We're closing school so we can disinfect phones, desks, water fountains, lockers," said school attorney Steve Mathis. "Hopefully, we can nip the flu bug in the bud."
School resumes on Monday.
The kindergarten to 12th-grade school has about 650 students. The middle and high school buildings share a campus, and the elementary school has a separate campus.
"Having a quarter of the kids sick is certainly not a good thing for anybody," Mathis said.
Tulsa City-County Health Department officials are encouraging everyone older than 6 months to get the flu vaccine, which they say is the best way to protect against getting the flu.
The Tulsa Health Department has given more than 10,400 flu inoculations since Oct 1.
There is no shortage of the flu vaccine in the Tulsa area. Any doctors who may have run out should be able to get more from the manufacturer, a Tulsa Health Department spokeswoman said.
Some manufacturers have reported a shortage of the vaccine, however.
The Visiting Nurses Association is expecting a new shipment soon and will have the vaccine for adults available. The organization is extending its hours on weekdays and opening the next two Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in response to high demand for the vaccine, CEO Shannon Robbins said.
Rowland said almost all of the flu strains going around so far this year are covered by the vaccine.
People are also reminded to wash their hands frequently, cover their coughs and stay home when sick.
Tulsa World Staff Writer Susan Hylton contributed to this report.
The flu vaccine is offered on a walk-in basis for $25 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Fridays at the following Tulsa City-County Health Department locations:
The vaccine is also available at the Visiting Nurses Association, 7875 E. 51st St., for $30 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.
- James O. Goodwin Health Center, 5051 S. 129th East Ave.
- Central Regional Health Center, 315 S. Utica Ave.
- North Regional Health and Wellness Center, 5635 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Original Print Headline: State death toll from flu now 8; disease widespread
Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378
A shot and a vial, at the Tulsa Health Department. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World