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Flu deaths in Oklahoma climb by six, state officials say

The Oklahoma Health Department reported that six more flu-related deaths occurred last week, all in Oklahomans 65 and older.
By Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: January 24, 2013 at 9:57 pm •  Published: January 24, 2013

Six Oklahomans 65 or older died last week from flu-related complications, bringing Oklahoma's flu-related death total to 14 since September, health officials said Thursday.

Last flu season, Oklahoma saw 10 residents die because of the flu. During the 2010-11 flu season, 26 residents died of flu-related complications, according to the state Health Department.

Since the start of this year's flu season in September, one Oklahoma County resident has died because of the flu, along with three residents in Tulsa County, three in Comanche County and two in Pittsburg County.

In its weekly flu update, the state Health Department reported 71 flu-related hospitalizations occurring from Jan. 16 to Jan. 22. Since the flu season began in September, 611 flu-related hospitalizations have been reported.

It's too soon to tell whether Oklahoma has reached its peak in flu activity, said Laurence Burnsed, director of the communicable disease division at the state Health Department.

“We are in that time of year where we typically will see a peak, but as with last week and the next several weeks, it's still unknown,” Burnsed said. “What we do know is that we're seeing a high level of influenza activity, which we typically see this time of year.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports flu activity is high across most of the United States. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness with symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat and body aches, according to the CDC.

Because the flu season can continue until April, residents still have time to get their flu shots and receive some protection, Burnsed said.

At highest risk

Young children and adults 65 and older are most at risk for developing serious complications related to the flu, he said. Adults in this age category who suffer from diabetes, heart disease or other chronic conditions are especially at risk.

It's important to call first, because the location might temporarily be out of the adult flu shot. This year's flu shot is 62 percent effective, according to the CDC.

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