MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Flu season officially began Oct. 2 and already eight people across the state have been hospitalized because of the flu.

This year's flu vaccines will protect against four strands of the virus, said Joyce Walker, Muskogee County Public Health Department district nurse manager. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determines what types of flu vaccine to prepare. Flu mists will no longer be administered, as it is no longer recommended by the CDC.

"If you don't have Medicare or have insurance, there is a $25 fee," Walker said. 

For families who are 185 percent below the federal poverty level, there is no charge for flu shots. The health department will accept SoonerCare, Medicare, all private health insurance, cash, checks or credit cards as payment for the flu vaccine.

Walker recommend that those 65 years old and older, along with people who have medical conditions like diabetes and immune deficiencies, and pregnant women should definitely receive the vaccine.

"Flu vaccinations not only protect pregnant women, but also protects their babies for up to six months," said Dr. Terry Cline, Oklahoma State Department of Health commissioner in a news release. "Since influenza is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women and newborns this protection is important." 

Flu vaccines are safe during pregnancy, after delivery and for breast-feeding women.

Walker said that a recipient of the vaccine is not fully protected until two weeks after the shot is administered. The virus administered is a dead virus and can not give someone the flu, Walker said. Someone who has been vaccinated can still get the flu, but the vaccine can minimize the symptoms. 

How do you know if you have the flu? 

"If your symptoms are more severe than for a cold or allergies, then go to your doctor," Walker said. 

Reach Mark Hughes at (918) 684-2908 or

Flu shot locations

• Your health care provider or most urgent care clinics.

• Muskogee County Health Department, 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday, 530 S. 34th St.

• Veterans can walk in to their assigned team from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center for a no-cost flu shot.

• Cherokee Nation — in Muskogee County 9 a.m. to noon; Tuesday at Fort Gibson School, middle and high school; 9 a.m. to noon, Tuesday and Wednesday, Fort Gibson School, lower elementary; 9:30 a.m. to noon, Oct. 25, Oktaha Elementary School library.

• Cherokee Nation — 10 a.m. to noon, Gore Public Schools; 9 a.m. to noon, Tuesday.

Mark Hughes writes for the Claremore Progress.