OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma State Department of Health is reminding Oklahomans to get a flu shot to prevent illness before upcoming holiday gatherings among family and friends.
The health department reported Thursday there have been 71 hospitalizations and three deaths(age 65+) associated with the flu since the season began in September. The highest number of flu-related hospitalizations happened among those who are over the age of 65, as well as children younger than five. Both groups are at a greater risk of experiencing severe illness and complications to the flu.
“It is important to stay home from holiday gatherings if you have symptoms of influenza which are fever, chills, body aches, and a cough or sore throat,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley. “It is better to miss out on some holiday fun than risk infecting others. Flu can be especially dangerous for pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and those who have underlying health conditions such as asthma and other lung diseases.”
Flu activity increases between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the health department says getting a flu shot is the most effective way to avoid the potentially serious illness.
Vaccinations are available at all county health departments with no out-of-pocket cost, as well as at medical providers and many pharmacies throughout the state.
Public health officials also recommend following these prevention tips:
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and getting a full night’s rest.
- Wash hands frequently using soap and water, or alcohol-based products such as hand gels when hands are not visibly soiled.
- Use tissues to cover coughs and sneezes, then dispose of them and wash your hands immediately. When tissues are not readily available, cough into your sleeve, not your hands.
- Stay home from work, school and other public places when feeling ill.