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Rising tide of flu sends flood of people to hospitals in region

Numbers of influenza-associated hospitalizations this flu season are peaking much higher than they have since 2015 in Oklahoma. Seventy-four people have died since Sept. 1, 2017, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health Flu View at ok.gov. The department updated the numbers Thursday morning. 

New hospitalizations reported with testing for the flu between Jan. 17 and Thursday were 417. Reported cases of persons hospitalized who tested positive for the flu in Oklahoma between Sept. 1, 2017 and Jan. 16 numbered 1,597.

Sean McAvoy, executive director for Lawton Community Health Center, said this is the busiest flu season in recent memory and has been a tax on the center's ability to get patients in. "We are seeing about 30 percent of our schedule with flu-like symptoms," McAvoy said. "The majority are positive for the flu."

The basics are still the best to avoid the flu ... Minimize contact with people who have the flu. Wash your hands frequently. Get enough sleep and stay well hydrated. McAvoy said he validated this information will Dr. Renato Caballero.

Tamiflu will not cure the flu, but it will reduce the severity and duration of the flu if started early, according to McAvoy. He said symptoms of the flu include body aches, fatigue, fever and some patients will also have vomiting and diarrhea.

Influenza or the flu is caused by by a virus that affects mainly the nose, throat, air passages and lungs. Two main types that affect humans are types A and B. Either of these can circulate in the U.S. each year during fall and winter. Each type of flu virus has different strains, which change from year to year. On average each year, seasonal flu infects between 5-20 percent of the U.S. population, resulting in more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths each year, according to the state health department.

About 8 percent of the Emergency Department population at Southwestern Medical Center are testing positive for the flu, according to Scott Tanner, Emergency Department Director. He said Tamiflu (the prescription drug many doctors are prescribing) does not cure the flu, it is an antiviral drug that works by slowing the spread of the virus.

The Lawton Constitution

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