Midwest City woman dies of flu

Thursday, December 18th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Influenza killed an 84-year-old Midwest City woman, bringing the state's flu death toll to at least seven, the state Health Department said.

The virus is also being investigated as the possible cause of death of three Oklahoma children ages 10 months to 2 years.

Oklahoma flu deaths include three men from the Tulsa area older than 70; a 13-year-old Tulsa girl; a 14-month-old girl from Lawton and a 28-year-old Midwest City woman.

Doctors and hospitals are not required to report flu cases.

Oklahoma relies on a surveillance network to give a snapshot of flu activity in the state. Selected physicians and laboratories track influenza levels and identify circulating strains of the virus.

``Flu activity continues to increase in the northwest, southwest and southeast regions of the state, although it could be plateauing in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas,'' interim state epidemiologist Kristy Bradley said Wednesday.

Hospitals are taking precautions to curb the contagious disease.

``It's bad...people are really scared,'' said Terrie Matthews, spokeswoman for Memorial Hospital of Texas County. ``We're not turning away anyone yet, but we've been close.''

Fears of the flu have caused the 47-bed Guymon hospital to prohibit outside visitors to newborn babies.

The Oklahoma Panhandle is at an increased risk because of the high number of cases in nearby Colorado and Texas. Colorado has had 9,179 reported flu cases this year, with 11 deaths among children younger than 17. Texas has reported widespread flu activity for the last nine weeks.

At Grady Memorial Hospital in Chickasha, several staff members are out with the flu, even some who received a flu shot, said spokesman John Crump.

``We do have a number of staff out with the flu, and it doesn't seem to matter if they have had the flu shot or not,'' he said. ``For patients with flu symptoms, we immediately ask them to wear a mask and we ask all visitors and staff treating them to wear a mask.''

Oklahoma communities are also seeing a run on flu vaccines.

The Tulsa City-County Health Department received an emergency supply of 600 flu shots Tuesday, and all were gone by day's end. Jackson County Health Department in Altus, ran out of the vaccine last week.

Most health departments don't expect to get more of the vaccine.