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OKLAHOMA CITY – As Christmas approaches, health officials are warning Oklahomans that the flu is spreading across the state.

“It is very easy to catch any sort of illness this time of year with all the hugs, handshakes and shared surfaces at parties or shopping malls,” said OMRF immunologist Eliza Chakravarty,M.D. “The flu can spread like wildfire, and these settings can act just like kindling.”

On Thursday, health officials released the latest influenza numbers from across the state.

Experts say that 24 people had to be hospitalized within the last week due to the virus, bringing the total number of hospitalizations to 135.

“The number of flu cases is relatively high for this time of year, and public health officials are concerned there will be a high risk of spreading the flu during the holiday season. The highest number of flu-related hospitalizations has occurred among those who are older than 50 years of age, as well as children younger than 5, which are both groups at greater risk of experiencing severe illness and complications due to flu,” the health department said in a statement on Nov. 30.

Last week, officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported that two Oklahomans have died from the flu. They say both deaths occurred in patients who were over the age of 65.

Fortunately, no other deaths have been reported in connection with the flu.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say you should be vigilant with washing your hands, avoid touching your eyes and mouth, get plenty of sleep and eat healthy to help give your immune system a boost. Also, experts suggest getting the flu shot.

“Getting the flu is an awful experience. Getting it during the holiday season is even worse,” said Chakravarty. “So if you need to be out and about running errands and meeting up with friends and family, it’s wise to protect yourself–and them–as best you can.”

Doctors say a typical flu season in Oklahoma usually runs from October to May.

If you get sick, look out for severe aches and pains in your muscles and joints, notable fatigue and weakness, headaches and a high fever.

If you are experiencing those symptoms, call a doctor as soon as possible. Experts also say you should not go to work or school if you have a fever.