A total of 48 people have died from the flu in Oklahoma since September, the highest number of flu deaths since the state began keeping track of this statistic in 2009.
The state Health Department confirmed Thursday that four additional deaths had brought the total to 48.
The state began tracking flu deaths in 2009 during the H1N1 flu pandemic. That flu season, 46 residents were confirmed to have died because of the flu.
The number of people who will get the flu or die from the flu varies widely from year to year, and it’s largely unpredictable for a variety of reasons, said Kendra Dougherty, an epidemiologist at the Health Department.
For example, just because the H1N1 2009 virus caused several deaths during the 2009-10 flu season and has also been prevalent in this year’s flu season, that doesn’t mean that virus will always have that same impact, Dougherty said.
In contrast, during the 2011-2012 flu season when the H1N1 2009 virus was the main virus affecting people, 10 people died.
“It’s very variable from year to year, and the strain that's circulating does impact that and impacts what age groups are affected,” Dougherty said. “Just because it’s (the) 2009 H1N1 strain doesn’t mean we're going to have a severe year. There are all kinds of factors we know about and don't know about.”
Since September, the majority of people who have gotten sick from the flu caught the Influenza A virus. In some cases, further testing was done, and it was confirmed to be H1N1 2009, which is a type of Influenza A virus.
Young children and adults 65 and older are often warned about the flu virus, for they are often most likely to be sickened by the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, the H1N1 2009 virus is known to affect a younger age demographic. That trend has been noticed in Oklahoma and nationwide.