Flu kills 2 more in Tulsa County, 6 total in state
BY MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer
Friday, February 08, 2013
2/08/13 at 8:04 AM
As health officials reported another six deaths in Oklahoma, including two in Tulsa County, experts struggled Thursday to explain why some flu seasons are worse than others.
"There isn't necessarily a reason," said Kelly VanBuskirk, the manager of epidemiology for the Tulsa City-County Health Department.
"It's kind of the way it trends. There's no way to predict how the season will be."
And, of course, it's all relative. Tulsa has been hard hit by the flu this year, giving people here the impression of a widespread epidemic.
Actually, statewide, it's been an average flu season, said Kaitlin Snider, a spokeswoman for the local Health Department.
"However, compared to last year, this flu season started much earlier and more severe," she said. "Last year was very mild and peaked later than normal, in March as opposed to January or February."
Twenty-three people have died in Oklahoma from the flu since Sept. 30, with nearly 800 hospitalized.
But Tulsa County alone accounts for 236 hospitalizations, by far the most in Oklahoma - in fact, more than double any other county.
"An infectious disease will spread faster in high-population areas," VanBuskirk said, partly explaining the high number of cases in Tulsa. But why not Oklahoma City instead?
It could be sheer luck.
"As people travel," she said, "it spreads. And we can't predict if it will be worse in one area or another."
The current wave of the flu started on the East Coast, where doctors are already reporting fewer cases.
"January-February is usually the peak," VanBuskirk said. "In the middle of the country, we're starting to see numbers that are pretty close to peak."
Statewide, hospitalizations declined this week, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Eighteen of those who have died have been 65 or older, and five have been between the ages of 19 and 64.
Oklahoma and Comanche counties have reported three deaths each.
World Staff Writer Shannon Muchmore contributed to this story.
Tips for preventing the spread of flu
Avoid contact: Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them.
Stay home: If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick to help prevent others from catching your illness.
Cover up: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing or cough into the crook of your elbow.
Stay clean: Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Keep your hands down: Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
Good habits: Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Original Print Headline: Flu kills 6 more in state; 2 in Tulsa
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Shots can prevent the flu and lessen symptoms when it occurs. AP