New influenza statistics released by the Oklahoma State Department of Health indicate 345 persons have been hospitalized and eight persons have died in Oklahoma since reporting for the current flu season began on Sept. 30, 2012.
Influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported statewide while influenza-related deaths have occurred among three residents of Tulsa County, and one each from Creek, Mayes, Muskogee, Pittsburg, and Rogers counties.
Public health officials continue to emphasize that the single best way to protect against flu and its consequences is to get the flu vaccine. Many local county health departments, pharmacies and health care providers still have vaccine and health officials urge all persons 6 months of age and older to get the vaccine to protect themselves and those around them from influenza, especially babies too young to receive a vaccination.
Persons who already have the flu can spread it to others even before they feel sick. You may have the flu if you have some or all of these symptoms:
• Fever (although not everyone with flu will have a fever)
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Body aches
Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.
If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider. Certain people are at greater risk of serious flu-related complications (including young children, elderly persons, pregnant women and people with some long-term medical conditions). If you are in a high risk group and develop flu symptoms, it’s best for you to contact your health care provider. Remind them about your high risk status for flu.
Health care providers will determine whether influenza testing and possible treatment are needed. Your provider may prescribe antiviral drugs that can treat the flu. These drugs work better for treatment the sooner they are started, ideally within 48 hours of noticing symptoms. Consult with your healthcare provider if you or a household member is in a group that is at higher risk of flu-related complications. Antiviral drugs may be indicated as a prevention measure to prevent especially vulnerable persons such as infants less than 6 months old, or persons of any age with a medical condition that severely suppresses their immune system.
Parents should be aware of children with emergency warning signs of flu including the following:
• Fast breathing or trouble breathing
• Bluish skin color
• Not drinking enough fluids
• Not waking up or not interacting
• Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
• Fever with a rash
Parents and caregivers should seek medical help right away for any infant who is unable to eat, has trouble breathing, has no tears when crying, and has significantly fewer wet diapers than normal.
Adults who have should seek medical attention if they have difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, and flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and a worse cough. It is not necessary to go to the emergency room if you are only mildly ill. If you get sick with flu symptoms and are at high risk of flu complications or you are concerned about your illness, call your health care provider for advice. If you go to the emergency room and you are not sick with the flu, you may catch it from people who do have it
If you do become sick with flu symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other things no one else can do. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as acetaminophen. Stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings. Remember to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and wash hands often to keep from spreading flu to others.