By ROB W. ANDERSON
Since the onset of flu season in September, 17 people across the state have died from the respiratory illness.
Deaths have been reported in 10 different counties, including Cleveland, Comanche, Creek, Mayes, Muskogee, Oklahoma, Pittsburg, Rogers, Stephens and Tulsa.
Tulsa County was one of three recently to report a flu death and has the most at four, while Comanche County has reported three influenza deaths.
No deaths have been reported in Cherokee County, but four people have have been hospitalized with the flu, according to the State Department of Health’s Influenza Activity Summary report.
Local health officials urge those who haven’t received flu vaccination yet to do so as soon as possible, as shots are still available. The Cherokee County Health Department recommends people 6 months of age and older get vaccinated to protect themselves, as well as those around them.
“The Cherokee County Health Department has plenty of flu vaccine to accommodate the county needs at this time,” said CCHD Eligibility Analyst Sarah Johnson. “It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. In the meantime, you are still at risk for getting the flu. That’s why it’s better to get vaccinated early in the fall, before the flu season really gets under way.”
According to information released earlier this month, 4,905 patients at W.W. Hastings Hospital received flu shots between October and December. The Cherokee Nation hospital reported 120 cases of flu during that period, and 80 cases had been reported through Jan. 10.
Cherokee Nation Infection Preventionist Jennifer Tredway said the facility has an ample supply of the vaccine, which is being dispersed throughout the Cherokee Nation.
“Others may be running out, but we still have plenty of vaccine here at W.W. Hastings,” she said. “We are sharing with our eight Cherokee Nation health centers to help all of us get through this flu season, which has peaked much earlier than last year.”
According to the tribe’s press release, the Cherokee Nation has not yet not shared its supply of flu vaccine with non-Cherokee health centers, but has a history of doing so during previous flu seasons when shortages have occurred.
Tahlequah City Hospital reports having sufficient vaccine for inpatients upon their discharge from care. The public can get vaccinated through Tahlequah Medical Group primary care providers.
“Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are preferred at our clinic located just off East Ross bypass in Tahlequah,” said TCH Infection Control Officer Cheri Oglesbee. “The components of this year’s flu vaccine are right on target. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the vaccine is 99.5 percent effective against Flu B, H3N2, and 100 percent effective against Flu A, H1N1, which are mostly in circulation in the U.S.”
To schedule an appointment at the TCH bypass clinic, call (918) 207-0991, and for information about receiving the flu vaccine at the Cherokee County Health Department, call (918) 456-8826. Oklahoma flu updates can be viewed online at www.health. ok.gov.