Oklahoma is facing a rough flu season, and county health departments are urging caution, prevention and vaccination.
Data collected by the Oklahoma State Department of Health states Carter and Love Counties haven’t seen any hospitalizations or deaths due to the flu so far, but Administrative Director Mendy Spohn said there have been cases of the  disease this season.
“We definitely started seeing cases earlier this year,” Spohn said. “We’ve also had outbreaks in long-term care facilities.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oklahoma is currently facing widespread influenza activity as of two weeks ago. In this context, “widespread” refers to the geographic spread of the disease, rather than severity.
“Our role at the state level is to monitor and report cases,” Spohn said. “At the local level, we do a lot of community education.”
Though Oklahoma is experiencing an unusually warm winter, it won’t necessarily effect flu rates. Spohn said hot, dry conditions can be just as hospitable to the flu, and vaccination is still the most effective way to contain it.
Hand hygiene, cough etiquette and remembering to wipe down surfaces that see a lot of use are also effective strategies. Thorough hand washing is still the most useful tool against spreading sickness, but hand sanitizer is a good backup option when water and soap aren’t readily available.
Schools, long-term care facilities and hospitals are all places that can be vulnerable to outbreaks.
“We can help them with containment and control measures,” Spohn said.
Spohn said Carter County Health Department and the Chickasaw Nation are working together to vaccinate as many people as possible for free. The vaccines are approved for patients age 5 and up. She said the department has teamed up with fire stations and other groups around town to hold vaccination events anyone can attend.
“We’re willing to work with any group or businesses if they want to do vaccinations,” Spohn said.