When you are talking about the flu, no news is good news.


When you are talking about the flu, no news is good news.

Last year, the state’s first official case of the flu season was reported in early November in Oklahoma County. And by the middle of December, health care professionals had reported several confirmed cases of the illness in southern Oklahoma.

So far this year however, there is barely a sign of the nasty bug. State weekly influenza reports have indicated “No Activity” since the week of Oct. 4. And locally, the situation is much the same.

“I haven’t seen any of it so far, although we’ve had a lot of flu-like illnesses,” Dr. Steve Watkins said Tuesday. “I expect to see it any day.”

The last flu season peaked in February, which may well be the case again in 2009. Oklahoma’s flu season generally runs from October through May.

Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Symptoms include high fever, headache, extreme fatigue, chills, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. In many cases, antiviral medications can shorten the length of the illness.

The flu occurs every winter in the United States and strikes between 5 and 20 percent of the population. Seniors, young children and people with certain health conditions are at high risk for serious flu complications, which may sometimes be fatal.

Flu viruses change over time, so new vaccines are formulated every year. Manufacturers produced an all-time high supply of vaccine this year making it possible for more people to get protected. Because people may remain at risk from the flu into the spring, it is not too late to get immunized now. In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the illness can get vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that individuals in the following categories get vaccinated during the 2008-09 flu season:

* Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday

* Pregnant women

* People 50 years of age and older

* People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions

* People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

* And people who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu

Doctors say one of the best ways to avoid getting sick or spreading respiratory viruses is to simply wash your hands frequently.

Steve Biehn, 221-6546