NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Oklahoma County records high number of people hospitalized for flu

Oklahoma City — The flu is off to a fast start in Oklahoma County, where 11 people were hospitalized in the past week alone.

As of Friday, 44 people had been admitted to Oklahoma County hospitals for flu-related complications since the start of flu season Sept. 1. Statewide, 179 people have needed hospital care for the flu, and four have died. Most of those hospitalized were either senior adults or children younger than 5.

“Last year, in Oklahoma County, I don't think we had 11 hospitalizations (total) at this time,” said Eric Howard, epidemiologist at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department.

It isn't clear if this will be a severe flu season, Howard said. While it's unusual to have so many people hospitalized by December, 44 is nowhere near a record. In particularly bad weeks, sometimes as many as 68 people will be hospitalized, he said.

The good news is that both strains of the flu that are circulating in Oklahoma were included in this year's vaccine, although the shot only offers partial protection against one of the strains, Howard said. People who get that strain typically have less severe symptoms if they got the vaccine, he said.

“It may be you're sick for two days as opposed to six days,” he said.

Flu shots are available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon Friday at the county health department locations at 2700 NE 63, 2149 SW 59 and 4113 NW 10. Cost is $25, but some free shots are available.

The flu causes fever or chills, coughing, a sore throat, a runny or congested nose, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue. Some people vomit or have diarrhea, but that's more common in children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People who have the flu generally report their symptoms arrived suddenly, unlike the gradual progression of a cold.

People who think they have the flu should see a doctor about medication that can shorten the illness, Howard said. They also should take care to cover their coughs and sneezes, wash their hands regularly and avoid other people as much as possible, he said.

“Be a recluse for a couple days. It's OK,” he said.

Older people, young children, people with chronic conditions and pregnant women are most vulnerable to flu complications. Howard advised everyone older than 6 months to get the vaccine to avoid infecting a high-risk person.

“The concern for having a sore arm for an afternoon seems ridiculous to me,” he said. “People won't do that, but they'll risk spreading flu to their loved ones.”

Related Photos
<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure>
Meg Wingerter

Meg Wingerter has covered health at The Oklahoman since July 2017. Previously, she lived in Topeka, Kansas, and worked at Kansas News Service and The Topeka Capital-Journal, where she earned awards for business coverage. She graduated from... Read more ›