Flu Season Starting To Peak In Oklahoma - News9.com - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |

Flu Season Starting To Peak In Oklahoma

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If you've been lucky enough to not come down with the flu this season, you're not in the clear just yet. What seemed like an extremely mild season is starting to flare up.

"One of the things we've seen sometimes is you may start slow, but you end with a bang," said Leslea Bennett-Webb, Director of Communications with the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Since January 1, 2012, there have been 23 hospitalizations in Oklahoma due to the flu. Nine of those cases occurred just in the last reporting week of February 5-11. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, this year is the latest onset of a flu season in the last 30 years.

"It's a very late start," said Bennett-Webb. "We are seeing a lot of respiratory things going around which is not unusual for this time of year."

In the United States, the flu season runs from October through May, with the illness peaking in February.

"We are seeing an increase," said Bennett-Webb. "But, it's very slow because this time last year, we had more than 400 people who had been hospitalized with the flu. We've only had 23 thus far, so comparatively speaking it's still a very mild season."

The best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get the flu shot. Even now, the health department says it's not too late.

"We are seeing the same sorts of strains of flu that we had last year repeated this year, so the vaccine this year was the same as the one we offered last year," Bennett-Webb said. "It's not too late to get a flu shot and there is plenty of the vaccine out there."

The CDC says there are everyday preventative actions you can take to stop the spread of germs:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like symptoms, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

If you do come down with the flu, talk to your doctor about prescribing a flu antiviral drug. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines that are not available over-the-counter. They can make illness less severe and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications but must be taken within the first two days of symptoms.

"The one thing you know about flu is that you don't know anything about flu, you never know how it's going to turn out, it is always unpredictable," said Bennett-Webb. "So we'll just have to see how the season unfolds."

The Oklahoma State Department of Health doesn't track all flu cases, only those that require hospitalizations.

Check Out the OK Flu View: Monthly Influenza Activity Summary, updated every Thursday!

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