Flu shot

Cherokee Nation Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden receives a flu shot from W.W. Hastings Hospital Occupational Health Nurse Randi Duncan.

Flu season appears to be ramping up locally and across the state, according to official reports.

Since flu season began Sept. 1, 2019, the number of people hospitalized with the flu has increased to 431 across the state.

The number of hospitalization reports rose between Dec. 22 and Dec. 28, 2019, by 131.

And there have now been eight influenza-associated deaths throughout Oklahoma.

Between Sept. 1 and Dec. 28, 2019, Cherokee County has reported nine people hospitalized due to the flu.

Tera Moore, NeoHealth clinic coordinator, said January and February are usually the busiest times of the year for assisting patients with influenza-related health issues. The approximately 2,000 vaccines NeoHealth has administered have been effective this year, said Moore, but the number of patients they have seen has increased in the past three weeks.

"We've definitely seen the flu, especially in our pediatric population," she said. "It's not that we're seeing A more than B. We're seeing kind of combined, because you know there are different types of flu."

The flu season has taken its largest toll on seniors this year. Out of the 431 hospitalizations in the state, 150 of the patients were older than 65. Out of the eight deaths, five were 65 and older. The average age for hospitalizations was 54 years old, and the average death age was 72 years old.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the flu impacts 5% to 10% of the U.S. population each year, accounting for more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths annually.

Because flu season typically begins to taper off around March, people are still encouraged to receive flu vaccines and pay attention to their health.

"If you start feeling ill of any sort, the first thing you should do is call your provider and make an appointment," said Moore.

While number of hospitalizations and the death toll are expected to increase before the season ends, local residents have been dealing with other illnesses that might look like the flu. Moore said she's seen patients with a cough, fever, chills, body aches and more.

"The only thing that we've seen that's been different is that we have had a lot of patients come in who have a lot of flu-like symptoms," she said. "There's a lot of things kind of mimicking the flu, but they might not be testing positive for the flu. That's the only difference I can see from last year."

Northeastern Health System and Cherokee County Health Department officials could not be reached by press time.

Check it out

A weekly update on Oklahoma's flu season and additional information about influenza can be found at http://flu.health.ok.gov.

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