Oklahoma Influenza Deaths Increase to 17 - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Oklahoma Influenza Deaths Increase to 17

STEPHENS CO., Okla_ Three more people have died from the flu in Oklahoma, and one of them is from Stephens County.

Health officials there would only say the victim was at least 19 years old. The death brings this season's total statewide to 17. The report comes a day after two Duncan schools were shut down because of high absenteeism due the flu and illness being a contributing factor.

Cheryl Morrison is an infection prevention specialist at Duncan Regional Hospital. She said a number of things contribute to the high flu infection rate: From people not getting their flu shots, to not remembering steps they can take to avoid getting the flu at all.

The message posted at the entrance of Will Roger's Preschool Center is becoming too common for Duncan schools. It was shut down due to too many widespread illness related absences this flu season. Morrison said it's likely many of them did not get a flu shot.

"36% of the population has not received them, and that includes children," Morrison said. "Most pediatricians emphasize the fact that the children do need their influenza shots early."

Morrison said parents can help stop the spread of the flu by being more aware.

"Good hand washing is always paramount," Morrison said, "As well as disinfecting the surfaces in your home: the high touch areas, your doorknob, sinks, faucets, and any place where everybody's handling."

Now, schools like will Rogers and Irving are in the process of soaking commonly played with toys in bleach and hot water. They are mopping down areas and getting rid of anything deemed contagious. Morrison said the kids and some staff not being there for a few days is a plus.

"It's going to give kids extra time at home to relax and recover," Morrison said. "A lot of times, kids go to school when they're ill. Adults go to school when they're ill."

Morrison said all they're doing is spreading the virus around and getting others sick. The state record of new flu-related hospitalizations is at 78 in the past week, bringing the season total to now 722. She's not sure when it will be contained.

"Hopefully, it will start to level off," Morrison said, "But from what I'm seeing statistically, it's still kind of continuing on it's curve upward."

As we've heard many doctors reiterate several times, the flu season is still not at its peak. That is expected late February or early March. So, it's not too late to get your flu shot.

The other two flu deaths occurred in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.

Health experts say you can help keep from getting the flu or spreading it by washing your hands frequently, coughing into your sleeve or a tissue, and if you are sick, stay at home. Don't expose others to whatever you have.

To keep track of the flu in your area, click here.

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