OKLAHOMA CITY - A recent rise in flu-related deaths prompts the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to declare a nationwide epidemic.

The number of hospitalizations for the flu hasn't been this high, this early in five years. The number of cases in Oklahoma isn't as high as surrounding states, but they do continue to increase, which increases the concern for doctors and families.

If it wasn't for responsibilities, 8th graders Emma and Jonathan Franklin could be living care free this Christmas Break.

"Homework, finishing homework," said Jonathan.

"We went to Silver Dollar City and had fun with our family," said Emma.

But when they return to school next week, they'll be returning in the middle of widespread flu in Oklahoma and possibly even more.

"We're very close to the same number of cases it requires to declare an epidemic in Oklahoma," said Dr. Rachel Franklin.

As a mom and OU Physicians Family Medicine Medical Director, Rachel has been watching the number of flu cases increase since September.

While Oklahoma's flu activity remains at a "moderate" level, the state department of health has recorded six deaths related to the flu, all of which in persons age 65 or older. But outpatient screenings and hospitalizations of all ages are increasing weekly.

"I do not recommend panic. I recommend that people [take] precautions and [have] awareness," said Rachel.

Rachel says about 95% of the cases she has seen are a new flu strain that mutated after this year's vaccine was created. Still, she recommends that vaccine and teaches her kids the basics.

"Just basic precautions, washing your hands often, using hand sanitizer if you have it," said Jonathan.

And that is much more preferable to Emma and Jonathan than going back to school.

"Eh indifferent, I think that's the best word to describe it," said Jonathan.

Even though the flu shot is not as effective this year, doctors say it can make symptoms less severe and shorten their duration.