The nationwide flu epidemic continues with Oklahoma breaking a previous record of related deaths per season.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Thursday that 354 additional Oklahomans were hospitalized over the last week for flu related illnesses. The death toll has risen above the previous record of 110 to 129 related deaths this season.
The Health Department’s statistical records show the majority of those deaths are residents age 65 or older.
All age ranges are being affected by the severity of the illness this year though, as hospitalizations have risen across all age groups. Metro areas continue to see higher rates of illness, but the spread has not been confined to those areas. Per capita, the rural regions are reporting higher rates of flu related deaths at 4.4 per 100,000 residents in the Southwest region which includes Carter County versus an overall rate of 3.3 per 100,000 for the state as a whole.
“Carter County is definitely feeling the effects of increased flu activity,” said Mendy Spohn, Administrator for Carter, Love, Marshall, Johnston, Stephens, and Jefferson County Health Departments. “Businesses, schools, and healthcare facilities have reported increased absences and flu related illness.”  
Local health department locations do still have the vaccine available, and those who have not yet been vaccinated are encouraged to do so. Spohn said even if the vaccine is less
effective, it is believed to help lessen the severity of the illness.
Public health officials and physicians alike are stressing the importance of isolating and practicing good hygiene if you have flu symptoms.
“With flu cases still being reported, remember to stay home until symptoms resolve, which could be seven or more days,” said Summer Kirby, MD Dr. Summer Kirby, MD, with Mercy Primary Care. Kirby also said frequent hand washing is incredibly important.