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Flu takes Oklahoma child's life, continues to pummel nation

The flu season continues to hit the state hard, and the state Department of Health has confirmed the first pediatric death associated with the flu since the season began in September. The fatality was an Oklahoma County resident between 5-18.

This week's Oklahoma flu report indicates record-breaking numbers with 3,440 flu-associated hospitalizations and 153 deaths. Those numbers surpass any other flu season since the Health Department began tracking in 2009. Public health officials remind the public that there are several weeks remaining in the flu season and the number of hospitalizations and deaths will continue to increase. A flu shot is encouraged for anyone over the age of 6 months who hasn't been immunized.

In an effort to reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths, health departments statewide are offering flu vaccinations at no cost to recipients at all county health department sites. The flu shot is especially recommended for those over the age of 65, those who suffer from chronic heart and lung conditions, and pregnant women.

Comanche County Health Department, 1010 S. Sheridan, is offering free flu clinics on a walk-in basis from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

"I encourage anyone who has not received the flu shot to get one," said Brandie Combs, regional director. "This year's flu season has been incredible," she said.

The department has high-dose vaccine for seniors that may not be available from health care providers. The vaccine must by administered by the end of May. Anyone interested in receiving a flu shot at no cost should contact the local county health department for clinic times.

Stephens County Health Department will have nursing services five days a week after the state health department's RIF (reduction in staff), unless there is staff illness, according to administrator Mendy Spohn.

"Some key things to consider when addressing flu in children include monitoring for flu-like illness and keeping them home from school and other public settings if sick," Spohn said. "If your child has existing respiratory or immune system conditions, talk with your doctor about your concerns."

Although many county health departments are open until 5 p.m., it is recommended to arrive by 4 p.m. for walk-in service. Some clinics may also close for lunch due to staffing shortages. It's best to call ahead if you need to get the vaccination during the lunch hour.

The Lawton Constitution

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