Oklahoma is experiencing widespread flu, and a state health official said it is not too late to get the vaccine.
Influenza activity continues to increase in the United States with most of the country now experiencing high levels of flu-like illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s most recent FluView report. During the week ending Dec. 29, 41 states were reporting widespread geographic influenza activity, an increase from 31 states the previous week.
Nationally, the 2012-13 influenza season began Sept. 30, according to the CDC. U.S. seasonal flu activity usually peaks in January or February. However, it can begin as early as October and continue as late as May. Last year, the flu season began late and was relatively mild compared with previous seasons.
Paula Wall, an immunization field consultant with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, said the number of flu cases have recently been increasing in the area.
In Oklahoma, the peak flu season is from January-March, Wall said. Regarding the severity of this year’s season compared to previous years, it will take a while before that kind of determination can be made, Wall said.
The Oklahoma City-County Health Department still has plenty of flu shots available, and it’s not too late to get one, Wall said. The agency has ordered additional doses, she said. It takes about 10-14 days after a flu vaccination for antibodies to develop and provide protection.
Laurence Burnsed, director of the Oklahoma Department of Health’s Communicable Disease Division, said when flu is widespread, as it is now in Oklahoma, it is important to take preventative measures.
Influenza-like illness is defined as having a fever, cough and/or sore throat.
Burnsed urged Oklahomans to get a flu shot, the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses, if they haven’t already. For the 2012-13 season, manufacturers projected that they would produce 135 million doses of flu vaccine, according to the CDC. During 2011-12, 132.8 million doses of flu vaccine were distributed in the U.S.
Everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine this season, the CDC recommends. High-risk groups include people with medical conditions including asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease, pregnant women and people age 65 and older. Another at-risk group is people who live with or care for others who are at high risk of developing serious complications.
Other defenses against the flu include:
• Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
• Washing your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
• Avoiding close contact with sick people.
• If you are sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should lessen without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
• While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
The Oklahoma City-County Health Department offers flu shots at its main clinic, 921 N.E. 23rd St. in Oklahoma City. The agency opened an appointment-only office for adult immunizations at UCO’s Wellness Center, 100 N. University Dr. To schedule an appointment, call 425-4412.
Other places offering flu shots include vaccination clinics, doctor’s offices and pharmacies. For more information about Oklahoma City-County Health Department vaccinations including hours of operation and how to obtain a copy of shot records, call 425-4450 or visit www.occhd.org/health/flu.
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