6 more state flu deaths reported, bringing season's total to 14
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Friday, January 25, 2013
1/25/13 at 3:19 AM
Six flu deaths were reported in Oklahoma last week, but the number of hospitalizations has dropped from previous weeks, the Oklahoma State Department of Health says.
More than 600 Oklahomans have been hospitalized with the flu since Sept. 30, and 71 of those were in the past week, health officials say.
Fourteen deaths have been reported this flu season. Three of those were in Tulsa County, which has the highest number of hospitalizations by far, at 188.
Ten of those who died have been older than 65, and the rest were between the ages of 19 and 64. The majority have lived in the eastern part of the state, but deaths have also been reported in Oklahoma, Cleveland and Comanche counties.
Flu activity has been reported throughout the state, said Laurence Burnsed, director of the Communicable Diseases Division of the state Health Department.
The number of flu hospitalizations in the past three weeks in Oklahoma has been about 130 to 140.
Burnsed said it's still too early to tell whether the flu numbers are leveling off.
"It's unknown if we've peaked yet," he said.
It's not too late to get the flu vaccine, which health officials say is the best way to protect against flu, he said.
The flu season could last through April, he said.
This year's flu vaccine is about 62 percent effective, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The state Health Department does not collect data on whether people who died from flu received the vaccine or had an underlying medical condition.
Flu activity seems to be slowing down. It began earlier than in previous years but is otherwise similar, said Keith Veit, emergency department director at St. John Medical Center.
"It just feels like another flu season," he said.
The emergency department at St. John has seen 27 confirmed cases of the flu in the past week, and 79 people have been admitted to the hospital with the flu since Dec. 15.
Patients are admitted if they have respiratory distress, Veit said.
Thirty states, including Oklahoma, are reporting high influenza activity, and Oklahoma was among 48 states reporting widespread geographic activity, according to the CDC.
Nearly 19 flu hospitalizations per 100,000 people have been reported in the United States this flu season. Hospitalization rates are highest among people 65 and older, according to the CDC.
Burnsed said the elderly, those with underlying medical conditions and caregivers of young children should be particularly aware of the risk of flu and get the vaccine.
Health officials also remind people to wash their hands frequently, cover their coughs and stay home when they are sick.
Flu shots available
The flu vaccine is available on a walk-in basis from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at three sites:
Original Print Headline: 6 new flu deaths reported
- The James O. Goodwin Health Center, 5051 S. 129th East Ave.
- The Central Regional Health Center, 315 S. Utica Ave.
- The North Regional Health and Wellness Center, 5635 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378