According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, there were 1,541 new confirmed cases of influenza the week of January 12 through January 18. Of these cases, 68% were for flu type B.
Mendy Spohn, regional administrative director for the Carter County Health Department, said this type of spike in numbers is typical for the month of January. However, she pointed out that this year people seem to be more proactive in reducing the spread of the flu.
“We see people making lots of good decisions about staying home if they are sick,” Spohn said. “I’ve noticed a few work sites on Facebook that have shut down for a day or so because of illness. I hate that businesses have to do that, but I really respect that decision because they’re not asking their employees to put the public at risk.”
Spohn said the health department is still recommending people receive a flu shot if they have not already done so. This applies especially to children. She said the health department still has plenty of vaccine available for children at no cost for families that qualify for the vaccines for children program.
Even for those who have received the flu shot, Spohn said good hygiene is one of the most effective ways for preventing its spread.
“It’s so important to still remind people how critical it is to wash their hands,” Spohn said. “I cannot stress enough how important it is to have good hand hygiene, good cough hygiene, and staying away from others when you are ill.”
Spohn described good cough hygiene as avoiding coughing straight into the air and recommended covering your cough with tissue or your elbow. Coughing directly into your hand makes it much more likely for germs to spread onto other people or even onto surfaces that others will later handle.
Spohn also recommended regularly using hand sanitizer and washing your hands with soap and hot water.
“Hot water, soap and vigorous hand washing is the best way to prevent spreading germs, but we do recommend hand sanitizers because you don’t have ready availability to hot water and soap at all times,” Spohn said.
Spohn also addressed the coronavirus that has recently been grabbing national attention. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the virus, dubbed 2019-nCoV, first appeared in China and has now spread to multiple countries around the globe including Canada and the United States. According to a statement from the CDC issued Monday, only five cases have been confirmed in the country. It has been found in the states of Washington, California, Arizona and Illinois.
Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath and could have an incubation period of between two and 14 days. Of the confirmed infections, severity has ranged from little to no symptoms to severe illness and death. Fortunately, based on current information, the CDC states, “the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time.”
Spohn said the state health department is currently managing the information about the coronavirus, and local health departments are following the instructions provided by the state.
“They put out a health alert network notice last week,” Spohn said. “That is just a routine method we use in public health to let doctors, laboratories, health centers and providers have access to the most current information on things like this. They gave a very detailed report on what they knew at the time and offered up guidance and guidelines for doctors about how to screen for the virus, what to do, and how to report it.”