As school resumes for Green Country students, chances for catching the flu increase

TULSA - According to the CDC, half the country, including Oklahoma, is now experiencing widespread flu activity, a sign that the region is now fully in the throes of flu season.

According to the State of Oklahoma website, 63 Oklahomans were hospitalized because of the flu between Dece. 23 and Dec. 31, 2013.

In Tulsa County, 26 people were hospitalized between Oct. 10, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2013.

An updated count on the number of flu related hospitalizations will be released Thursday at 10 a.m. by the state.

In addition to experiencing the flu in growing numbers, doctors like Steve Nussbaum, D.O., of ERGENT care in Tulsa, say many patients are experiencing a syndrome of flu-like symptoms. Those symptoms include fever, chills, body aches and coughing in most cases.

"We're still treating the like the flu. Even with a prescription for meds like Tamiflu," Nussbaum said.

The goal is to catch illnesses as early as possible, Nussbaum says. Typically, doctors hope to begin treating patients within 48 hours so that the growth of the illness can be stalled.

Nussbaum says the bottom line with a viral illness is that they are going to run their course and last anywhere from five to 10 days, and it's up to the body's immune system to defeat the virus.

In addition to seeing patients with the flu or a syndrome of flu-like symptoms, Nussbaum says his office has seen many cases where people have contracted more than one sickness. He says they've seen people who have both the flu and pneumonia or both the flu and strep throat.

As students return to the classroom after winter break, Nussbaum says he expects to see a spike in the number of flu cases in the area.

"The kids are going to back to school today, and they've been home in their house with four or five, maybe six people and now they're going to be in a classroom with 25," he said.

As the number of people in a small proximity grow, Nussbaum says, the greater the likelihood is of students passing each other germs.

Schools like Metro Christian Academy are preparing for a spike, telling parents and kids to stay home if they're feeling sick, especially if they're battling a virus.

The school's registered nurse, Dody Patrock, tells students to wash their hands before coming to school and to also wash them before returning home.

"Don't bring it from home and then what you get a school, don't take it home," she said.

Patrock says a single sneeze in a crowded hallway can hit 50 or 60 other students, spreading an illness.

Both Patrock and Nussbaum recommend frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, eating a healthy diet and getting rest as ways to avoid the flu. They also says spikes during flu season are inevitable. 

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