Health Officials: Flu to Blame for Five Deaths in Oklahoma

Oklahoma health officials stated Thursday morning that five people have died due to the flu this season.

A recent report from the Oklahoma State Department of Health went on to describe that the deaths were reported among residents in Kay, LeFlore, Osage, Pittsburg and Tulsa Counties.

"We are seeing an increase maybe a little bit earlier than normal but certainly nothing that is unusual this time of year," Tulsa Health Department Spokesperson Kaitlin Snider said.

Also, in the last week 119 people have been hospitalized statewide. 59 of those cases were in Tulsa County. With the increase, places where you can get your flu shot are seeing more people.

Visiting Nurse Association Director of Wellness Merlyn Sweet said that in the last week they have seen at least 100 people coming to the shot and it's not too late since the peak of flu season isn't until late January to early February.

"It generally takes about two weeks for your body to receive the full benefit of the flu vaccine, but it's not to late. We are going to see increasing activity over the next few weeks," Snider said.

Both the health department and VNA said the best defense against the flu is the vaccine.

"No vaccine is one hundred percent guaranteed that you will not become ill. However, it does offer you some protection so in the event you do become sick you have a less severe strain," Snider said.

The health department said one of the most common strains this season is the H1N1, and this year's flu shot protects against that strain. Since it does take two weeks to activate you want to make sure you take other precaution this time of year.

"Wash your hands multiple times a day. Keep your hands away from your eyes, your nose, your mouth. Use your own writing utensils when you go to public places like the bank," said Sweet.

Both the health department and VNA have flu shots available.

This flu season, 242 persons have been hospitalized since Sept. 29.