While the thermometer may not show it, fall is officially upon us, and that means the beginning of flu season. According to Mendy Spohn, regional administrative director for the Carter County Health Department, flu season typically begins in Oklahoma in September and continues to ramp up as fall turns further into winter. While she does not know of any formally reported cases in the area, she has been hearing chatter about flu beginning to pop up in her seven-county district.
Spohn said because the flu virus mutates from year to year, no one can predict if any one year is going to be better or worse than years past. However, she stressed that getting a flu shot is the most important thing anyone can do to protect their health for the upcoming flu season. She said many doctors and pharmacies already have this year’s vaccine, and the Health Department will have free flu shots available by early October.
“We’re lucky in our community to have the Chickasaw Nation, and this is the fourth year that they have donated flu vaccine to the health department,” Spohn said. “We’re going to have some drive through clinics that are going to double as an emergency response exercise for us. We’ll also be trying to hit up some of the schools and other high risk areas for flu clinics to help raise the vaccination rate in the area.”
Spohn said another major source of illness prevention is good hygiene and she suggests regularly washing your hands with hot, soapy water, using hand sanitizers and coughing and sneezing into your sleeve. She also recommends planning ahead and being prepared just in case the flu or other illnesses strike.
“If people can already have some items at home that can help them make it through a session of the flu, that will make it easier on them,” Spohn said. “So it’s good to have things like tissues and fever reducing medication fever reducing medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.”
Spohn added that those with immunity issues such as asthma or other lung conditions that put them at higher risk of complications from flu can speak with their physician about preemptively taking Tamil if they have been exposed to someone who has the flu.
She said symptoms of the flu include fatigue, fever, drainage and a cough, and she stressed the importance of staying at home and seeing a health care provider if anyone thinks they might have caught it.
“It’s always important not to go to work or to school to pass it on,” Spohn said. “We definitely suggest that people seek medical providers to find out if they do have the flu or if they’re having complications — especially if they are having trouble breathing or major fatigue.”