Influenza ‘widespread’ in Oklahoma

BY STAFF REPORTS
12/05/2017 12:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
A Cherokee Nation nurse administers an influenza vaccination at the Tribal Council Chambers inside the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Dr. Sohail Khan, Cherokee Nation health research director, said one of the best ways to protect against the flu is to get a flu vaccination annually. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to an Oklahoma influenza summary for Nov. 19-25, the influenza geographic spread is “widespread” within the state.

The report states that there were 162 positive rapid flu tests at sentinel sites with 78 percent of those positive specimens being influenza A.

The summary also states that between Sept. 1 and Nov. 28, 105 influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported to the Acute Disease Service with ages ranging from 0 to 95 years with a median of 62 years of age.

The report states that two influenza-associated deaths have been reported among residents of Johnston and McClain counties, and officials said that Oklahoma is experiencing a higher than normal level of influenza activity early in the season.

“Our influenza-associated hospitalizations are the highest they have been at this time of year since the 2009-2010 pandemic,” Dr. Sohail Khan, Cherokee Nation health research director, said. “Our influenza-associated hospitalization count is three weeks ahead of the 2014-2015 season when our influenza activity peaked in December and declined to minimal levels by the end of March. This early activity does not mean we will have a more severe season. It does indicate that more influenza will be circulating during the holidays.”

Flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory infection caused by a variety of flu viruses. Symptoms of flu involve muscle aches and soreness, headache and fever. It enters the body through the mucus membranes such as the nose, eyes or mouth.

“Every time you touch your hand to one of these areas, you are possibly infecting yourself with a virus,” Khan said. “This makes it very important to keep your hands germ-free with frequent and thorough hand washing. Encourage family members to do the same to stay well and prevent flu.”

Khan said there are three types of flu viruses: A, B, and C. He said type A and B cause the annual influenza epidemics that have up to 20 percent of the population sniffling, aching, coughing and running high fevers. Type C also causes flu, however type C flu symptoms are less severe.

The flu is linked to between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States, and seasonal flu vaccines are created to try to avert epidemics.

Khan said the best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits such as covering a cough and washing hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses such as the flu. There also are flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat and prevent flu.

To prevent the spread of flu, Khan said to avoid close contact; stay home when sick; cover mouth and nose; clean your hands; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.

He also suggests getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, managing stress, drinking plenty of fluids and eating nutritious food.

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