The annual "Don't Bug Me" flu awareness campaign from the Tulsa Health Department and Hillcrest HealthCare System has returned, as officials stress the importance of preventing the spread of the flu at a time when COVID-19 is already impacting hospital capacity.
"The combination of flu, cold, other illnesses and COVID-19 could put a strain on our health care system in Oklahoma," said Hillcrest CEO Kevin Gross at a Monday press conference. "We know that we will have COVID-19 patients throughout the upcoming flu season, and what we can do together to try to minimize a potential surge in hospital capacity is practice the techniques that we talk about in the 'Don't Bug Me' campaign."
"We would encourage, as we kick off the campaign, everybody to follow the simple techniques of masking, social distancing, hand-washing, get a flu shot, and we can all do together what we hope to do, which is minimize the spread of all these illnesses throughout the season," Gross said, after introducing Louie Achooee the Flu Bug, the campaign's mascot.
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum declared October "Flu Shot Awareness Month," and said his administration has set a goal of every municipal employee receiving a flu vaccination from the Tulsa Health Department.
The Tulsa Health Department will be offering low- or no-cost flu vaccines at a number of locations by appointment; more information is available at their website.
“It is possible to have flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time,” Priscilla Haynes, Tulsa Health Department Division Chief of Preventive Health, in a press release. “Flu and COVID-19 can both result in serious illness, including illness resulting in hospitalization or death. The flu vaccine can keep you from getting the flu, make the illness less severe if you do get it and keep you from spreading the virus to family and other people. That’s one important step toward protecting you and your family.”
THD said last year's flu season caused 866 hospitalizations and 16 deaths.