The 2018-2019 flu season is off to a slow start. Just weeks before its annual unofficial peak, positive influenza results remain well below the now-modern records set in 2017-2018.
The previous season saw total deaths top 80,000 in the United States, with more than 242 Oklahomans succumbing to complications from the virus,. The previous reported record for US deaths was 56 000 in 2012-13. According to the Center for Disease Control, the death toll for Oklahoma surpassed the previous reported modern record of 114 deaths set five years ago.
Michelle Moore, educator for the Carter County Health Department, said the decline in positive influenza tests can be partially attributed to an increase in vaccinations. Moore said the department’s annual drive-through vaccination event had approximately 1,300 participants this year, roughly 400 more than the previous year.
“Really, in all ages we have seen the vaccinations increase,” Moore said. “We were able to go into the school districts and we had some of the school and school staff participate. We also had the vaccine for those 65 and older.”
Moore said a proactive approach has helped cut down on the early hospitalizations and premature deaths often caused by the virus.
“Right now, we are becoming short on the vaccine because more and more people are wanting it.” Moore said, adding that in the previous year a late surge in people seeking the vaccines caused late shortages which may have prompted this year’s proactive approach.
The Carter County Health Department reported 13 new hospitalizations during the previous week and a total of 139 for the year, starting in September. Total deaths for the state remained at seven, with new numbers being reported every Thursday throughout the season.
Rebecca Burton, Carter County Health Department RN, said the vaccines are developed as far as  eight months in advance, with medical professionals trying to predict which strain will become predominate during the season, starting as soon as data becomes available in the northern part of the hemisphere.
Burton said that the strains can be difficult to predict due to natural mutations and the increase in infectious respiratory diseases that manifest during the school year.
“Another big minus when you start to put the vaccine out, there are a lot of colds, kids are getting back in school so they are swapping everything out,” Burton said. “The public generally will call anything the flu. But of course, (If you have the flu) you are really hammered, if you’ve ever had the flu you will know the difference.”
Moore said the best preventive measures against influenza include the vaccination and basic hygiene protocols that include frequent washing of hands and surfaces that come into contact with germs and general awareness in terms of spreading germs, like coughing into an elbow or covering the mouth, then taking cleaning precaution with any area exposed.

Who should get vaccinated this year in Oklahoma, according to the CDC?
·  All persons aged six months and older are recommended to receive the flu vaccine.
·  People in certain categories are strongly encouraged to receive the flu vaccine due to their high-risk for flu-related
complications or exposure to others. These categories are persons who:
·  are ages 6 months – 4 years;
·  are ages 65 years and older;
·  have chronic disorders such as asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease, kidney disorders, liver
disorders, neurological and neurodevelopment conditions, blood disorders, endocrine disorders (such
as diabetes mellitus), or metabolic disorders.