While health care providers are making a committed effort to keep their staff up-to-date on protocol for the Ebola situation, they say there are other serious concerns at hand.

Officials from EASTAR Health System, Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center, and Muskogee County Emergency Medical Service all have voiced their concern about a different virus. Havens said influenza is a far more dangerous disease than Ebola.

“There’s been more people die from influenza than probably will ever die from Ebola,” said Laurel Havens, Muskogee County EMS educational coordinator.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that from the 1976-1977 flu season to the 2006-2007 flu season, flu-associated deaths in the United States ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.

The latest CDC reports state 4,493 deaths, one of which was in the U.S., have occurred because of the West Africa Ebola outbreak. The death rates are up to 70 percent.  

“It’s the percentages that scares people,” Havens said.

On Friday, the Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction, Janet Barresi, sent out a media release to urge parents to stay informed on the Enterovirus, flu, and Ebola.

“I want to remind parents, educators and everyone who works with our children to stay vigilant and informed of health trends right now,” Barresi said. “There is a lot of fear surrounding the current outbreaks. Educators and parents should take the time to learn about these illnesses and take steps to reduce their impact on Oklahoma, primarily by consistently practicing good hygiene.”

According to the CDC, each year millions of children in the U.S. catch Enteroviruses. The most common Enterovirus this year is the enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68).  

Infants, children, and teenagers are at higher risk than adults because they have not been exposed to viruses like EV-D68 before. Therefore, their immunity or ability to fight the disease is low. EV-D68 can cause mild to severe respiratory illness.

Muskogee Public School spokeswoman Wendy Burton said the schools are aware of the Ebola situation and working to educate families.

“We plan to mail out information to parents,” Burton said.

Burton said that while Ebola is a concern, they are also looking for ways to educate students and parents about flu and Enterovirus during the fall season.

“It’s the same good hygiene practices,” Burton said.

Following basic health steps can help keep the risk of catching viruses like EV-D68, influenza, and even Ebola to a minimum.

The CDC recommends washing hands often, avoiding touching eyes, noses, and mouths with unwashed hands.

Another essential way to stop the spread of viruses is to stay at home when sick and to keep children out of school if they are sick. Cleaning and disinfecting frequently can prove to be beneficial, especially surfaces that have been touched by someone who is sick.

Reach E.I. Hillin at (918) 684-2926 or ehillin@muskogeephoenix.com.  

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