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High number of Oklahomans hospitalized for flu

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LAWTON Okla_ Oklahomans must do better at protecting themselves against the flu.

That's what local health workers say in response to the shocking number of people who have already been admitted to the hospital for it. We're only about three months into this flu season in Oklahoma and the state health department said that number is already over 170.

Health officials said this pace is scary, because they didn't see a peak in the flu season last year until early March. They aren't sure why there are so many confirmed cases this early, but they do know it can easily be prevented if people remembered a few simple steps to protect themselves.

Harvey Fraizer was admitted to the hospital Friday. He had come down with the flu Christmas day, but now it's turned into pneumonia.

"I just had a bad chest tightness, pressure, and congestion," Fraizer said.

Dr. Scott Malowney said around this time he normally sees about 45 patients a day with flu like symptoms, but this season, it's around 70.

"We did increase our staffing a little bit to accommodate," Malowney said. "I think we're handling it better this year than we did last year. I think we can handle what they're throwing at us."

Dr. Malowney said there are a number of reasons so many people have the flu.

"It's dry. It's too dry for your airways. You're also easily exposed to things. The change in temperature from morning to night is a big problem. People who work outside are a big problem."

He said if you can, try to stay indoors. Comanche County Health Department Administrative Director Brandie O'Connor said what's concerning is 64 of the 170 cases were reported between Christmas New Years Day.

She said, "That obviously makes us want to stop and say, ‘Okay, we really want to get our prevention measures, messages out to the public.' Then, they will take heed that the flu is around."

The very young and older population are at the highest risk of coming down with the flu.

"If you feel sick, don't go to work," O'Connor said. "It's going to be a lot more cost effective for you and a whole lot more cost effective for your employer. If you go in sick, it can easily spread. So miss that one day of work, stay home, feel better, and don't go to work and spread it."

Both Dr. Malowney and O'Connor said there are a number of ways to protect yourself, but the biggest one is washing your hands after interactions with people and objects.

Officials said it's not too late to get your flu shot. They said it may take anywhere for 3 to 4 weeks before it kicks into your system.



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