The Edmond Sun

Nation & World

January 3, 2014

Flu activity rises prior to school return

EDMOND — Flu activity is regional in Oklahoma and widespread in Kansas and Texas as students prepare to return to school, according to health officials.

In Oklahoma, the flu season typically lasts from October into April, and increased activity usually occurs from December into January — which is occurring now — said Laurence Burnsed, an epidemiologist and program manager of the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Communicable Disease Division.

On Monday, classes resume for more than 22,000 Edmond Public Schools students. The first day for nearly 5,000 Deer Creek students is Wednesday. More than 17,000 University of Central Oklahoma students return to class Jan. 13.

Burnsed said a big part of combating the flu is educating the public about how to prevent it. Officials say the single-best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year.

A dose is designed to protect against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illnesses during the flu season. The H1N1 (2009) virus is circulating in Oklahoma, Burnsed said. The Centers for Disease Control expects the strain will continue to circulate as a seasonal virus for some years to come.

Burnsed said if you haven’t received your flu shot yet it’s not too late. It takes about two weeks after being vaccinated to develop the antibodies that help your body fight off a flu infection, Burnsed said. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months old and older.

Flu vaccines are offered in many locations including doctor’s offices, the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, pharmacies, clinics and other places of business. Protection should last throughout any given season.

Good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often also can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu, Burnsed said.

Since Oct. 1, 126 flu-associated hospitalizations have been reported to the State Health Department, the agency says. People with flu-like symptoms account for about 3 percent of all hospital outpatient visits in Oklahoma County.

Nationally, widespread influenza activity was being reported in 10 states including Kansas and Texas, according to the weekly flu view report prepared by the Centers for Disease Control. Regional flu activity was reported by 23 states including Oklahoma and Arkansas.

For a complete list of flu vaccination locations, visit flushot.healthmap.org.

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