- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Fourteen Oklahomans have died from influenza-related illness during the past week, raising the state’s death toll this flu season to a record 82, the state Department of Health said Thursday.

In addition, more than 1,700 people have been hospitalized with flu-related symptoms since the season began Sept. 28, including 76 hospitalizations recorded within the past week, health officials said.

The Health Department began keeping track of flu deaths and hospitalizations during the 2009-2010 season. The previous record death toll was 72, recorded during the 2013-2014 season.

Officials have said several factors are contributing to this season’s high death roll. This year’s flu vaccine is only about 23 percent effective, far less than the usual 50 percent to 60 percent.

In addition, this season’s prominent flu strain is the aggressive H3N2 virus, which has been attributed in the past to more intense seasons. Experts say the strain is associated with more serious illness in children and older adults and has mutated, further eroding the flu vaccine’s effectiveness.

Of this season’s flu deaths, 63 victims were 65 or older while 10 were in the 50-64 age group, according to the Health Department. Three victims were aged 18-49 and four were 5-17. Two victims have been younger than 4.

Tulsa County has recorded the most deaths with 20, followed by Oklahoma County with eight and Garfield County with five.

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