Several area schools recently canceled classes while the influenza virus continues to spread.
Kiowa Public Schools, Quinton Public Schools, Lakewood Christian Schools, McAlester Christian Academy, Stuart Public Schools and Canadian Public Schools canceled classes last week due to the influenza virus – causing students and the faculty are absent.
Quinton, Lakewood, McAlester Christian and Stuart Public Schools are expected to resume classes on Monday. The Canadian operates four days a week without classes on Mondays, so he will resume classes on Tuesday. Kiowa canceled classes from January 11 to 12 before reopening on January 15.
According to a report from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, 45 flu-related deaths have been reported in Oklahoma since September 1, 2017.  The report indicates that the flu caused a total of 1,141 hospitalizations in Oklahoma. Oklahoma from September 1, 2017, with 288 hospitalizations related to the flu from January 3 to January 9.
Nine of these hospitalizations occurred in Pittsburg County and 74 of them were in the southeast region of Oklahoma, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Warren Clinic Director Michael Echelle said the clinic has seen an increase in patients experiencing flu-like symptoms.
"We have seen children and adults with respiratory diseases who have received a rapid test and tested positive for the flu," said Echelle. "It would be fair to say that the influenza virus is widespread in the McAlester and Pittsburg area."
Ashley Kennon, marketing coordinator for the McAlester Regional Health Center, said that MRHC has also seen an increase in flu cases in its urgent care, emergency room visits and family clinics.
"It is important to remember hand hygiene and safety protocol when visiting patients," Kennon said.
District nurse of Pittsburg County Health Department Melissa Locke said it is important that everyone stay home when they are sick, especially when they have a fever.
"You should be fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication, before returning to work or going to school," Locke said.
Epidemiologist at the Oklahoma State Department of Health Kendra Dougherty said everyone should do what they can to prevent them from contracting the flu virus.
"The flu is a virus that occurs in the fall and winter months," said Dougherty. "We see cases of seasonal flu every year that may require hospitalizations and may even cause death."
The Superintendent of McAlester Public Schools, Randy Hughes, said that the missing MPS numbers are low and that he does not plan to cancel classes this flu season.
"We are less than 12 percent absent at this time," Hughes said. "Our school nurse has been in contact with the health department and it seems we can be in the center."
Hughes said the school has not closed since some students depend on the school to eat and warm up.
"We would need our absent numbers to be 20 to 25 percent before canceling classes," Hughes said. "There are some students who come to school to warm up and eat."
Hughes said that MPS is doing everything possible to stay open during this flu season and teachers have been instructed to periodically disinfect their classrooms.
"Our teachers are cleaning the desks and door knobs with disinfectant wipes as much as they can," Hughes said.
Dougherty said the southeastern region of Oklahoma could be reaching the peak of the influenza virus.
"When we compare the flu virus with other regions, what we are experiencing is not as intense," Doughtery said. "But, we can delay."
Doughtery said that the flu virus can be spread from person to person by respiratory droplets in the air from laughter and coughing.
"Touch objects that the virus has touched and then touch your eyes, nose and mouth can cause flu," Doughtery said. "The symptoms appear suddenly and include fever, cough, sore throat, pain, extreme tiredness, sometimes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, especially in children."
Doughtery emphasized the importance of receiving the flu vaccine.
It's not too late to get a flu shot, "he said." Use hand hygiene and hand sanitizer and cover the cough with a tissue. "
Locke said the flu vaccine is available at the Pittsburg County Health Department and is recommended for high-risk individuals.
is recommended for anyone under the age of 5 or older than 65, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, and any underlying disease such as lung disease or asthma, "Locke said.
The Center for Disease Control recently held an informational session to provide information on what people can do to reduce the risk of flu or serious illness.
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, Director of CDC, said that we are currently in the middle of a very active flu season.  "So far this season, influenza A, H3N2, has been the most common form of influenza," Fitzgerald said. "These viruses are often linked to more serious diseases, especially among children and people aged 65 or older.When H3 viruses are predominant, we tend to have a worse flu season with more hospitalizations and more deaths."
Fitzergerald said that it will take many more weeks for flu activity to actually decrease.
"We also know that you can reduce your risk of getting the flu through good health habits every day, like covering your mouth when you cough and wash your hands often," he added. "You need, of course, to limit contact with other people who might be sick and, if possible, stay home when you are sick to help prevent the spread of germs and respiratory diseases such as the flu. we should all be doing. "
She said the CDC also continues to recommend the flu vaccine.
"While our flu vaccines are far from perfect, they are the best way to avoid getting sick with the flu and it's not too late to get it," Fitzgerald said. "As of this last month, the manufacturers have reported that they have sent more than 151 million doses of influenza vaccines, so they should be available." One day, of course, we hope to have a universal flu vaccine that will attack all the flu vaccines. influenza virus and provide protection for years, but until that day, we will continue to improve the vaccines we have and find ways and tools to help Americans reduce the risk of getting sick. "
Contact Lacey Sudderth at firstname.lastname@example.org