By Hannah Cruz
The Moore American
MOORE — The first reported flu death in Cleveland County this year was announced last week by the Cleveland County Health Department.
Cleveland County Health Education Supervisor Amanda James said at this time the county does not know the age, gender and race of the patient or exactly when or where the death occurred. The information has not been released by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
An additional seven deaths were reported in the state last week in Cleveland, Comanche, McClain, Okmulgee and Tulsa counties, for a total of 12 deaths reported statewide this flu season, according to a news release from the Cleveland County Health Department.
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, influenza-associated hospitalizations now total 399, with 157 reported in the past week. A chart on the website shows a total of 20 influenza hospitalizations in Cleveland County from Sept. 29, 2013, to Jan. 14.
Kelly Wells, Norman Regional Health System spokesperson, said Norman Regional has had 13 influenza-related admissions since the beginning of January, with large volumes of patients testing positive at all three campus emergency departments.
“Majority of the cases have been influenza A which is consistent with the Oklahoma State Department of Health influenza surveillance,” she said in an email. “We have had positive influenza cases since late fall; however, an increase in cases started the week of Jan. 5.”
James said it is common for reports of flu to increase in January, with this year’s trends similar to years past. And though the vaccine has been available for a few months now, James stressed it is not too late to receive the vaccine.
Influenza A (H1N1) viruses are what the county are seeing the most of this year, James said, and the vaccine helps protect against the virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, flu vaccines are designed to protect against H1N1 viruses, influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and influenza B viruses. The seasonal vaccines are designed to protect against influenza viruses that experts predict will be the most common during the upcoming season. The 2013-2014 trivalent influenza vaccine is made from: an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus; an A(H3N2) virus antigenically like the cell-propagated prototype virus A/Victoria/361/2011; and a B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus.
Vaccines are still available for all age groups, James said, with both mist and shot vaccines available. An annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older but is especially important for high risk groups like those 50 and older, young children, persons with chronic lung disease (such as asthma and COPD), diabetes (type 1 and 2), heart disease, neurologic conditions, other long-term health conditions and pregnant women.
The Cleveland County Health Department offices are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Thursday for residents to get a flu vaccine. The Norman office is at 250 12th Ave. N.E. The Moore office is at 424 S. Eastern Ave.
Call the Cleveland County Health Department Norman office at 321-4048 or the Moore office at 794-1591 for more information about flu vaccine, including pricing. Visit health.ok.gov for Oklahoma flu updates posted every Thursday.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, the single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year. Additional habits can aid in preventing illness, including:
· Avoid close contact: When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too.
· Stay home when you are sick: If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
· Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing: It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
· Clean your hands: To help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth: Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
· Practice other good health 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.