7 deaths reported from the flu, number expected to rise

Doctors say they are seeing 4 to 5 times as many cases of the flu this season. The Arkansas Department of Health says it is responsible for 7 deaths and that number is expected to get worse.
LITTLE ROCK, AR – Doctors say they are seeing 4 to 5 times as many cases of the flu this season. The Arkansas Department of Health says it is responsible for 7 deaths and that number is expected to get worse.

“We think because of the early season and the severity of the cases that this may be one of those years,” says Gary Wheeler with the ADH. Dr. Scott Carle the Concentra Medical Director says the last couple of weeks he has seen an inordinate amount of people coming in to the urgent care clinic.

The flu season typically starts in October, peaks in January, and lasts into February. Wheeler expects this season to last several more weeks and says there is still time to get flu shots this season.

Dr. Scott Carle says flu symptoms come on strong and can last for days. “Getting in to see someone quickly is well advised. There are medications available and at that time we watch for complications to make sure people don't get too sick." Dr. Carle says people go to bed and take a nap for an hour and wake up feeling horrible. "A very high fever, full body aches, and a bad cough."

Healthcare professionals advise taking extra preventative measures, in addition to the flu shot, to keep from getting sick and spreading the flu to others. Wheeler encourages people to refrain from shaking people's hands this time if year.

"Door knobs are classic ones, telephones at work or at home. Cell phones are notoriously dirty and we share things at work like writing instruments, pens or pencils and that sort of thing so it's virtually everywhere,” says Carle.

Less than half of Arkansas received a flu shot for this season. Doctors say the flu vaccine is the best protection against seasonal influenza. Wheeler recommends getting a flu shot now. "It's not too late. We expect a broad season. It's going to last several more weeks, so we hope people go in and get their shots now."

The symptoms for the common cold and the flu are very similar. According to the Centers for Disease Control, people with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Whereas, flu symptoms like “fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense.” Wheeler says, "We all have a responsibility if we feel we're getting ill, not to come to work and cause more harm. If you go in and infect 6 other people than you're really doing more harm."

Flu information from the ADH

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has received large numbers of reports of flu infections and hospitalizations from all regions of the state and is aware of seven deaths from the flu.

ADH encourages everyone six months of age or older to get a flu vaccine.

According to the ADH, the flu vaccine is the single best protection against the flu and is very effective in preventing flu infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.

The vaccine provides 60-80 percent protection against the flu and provides roughly 70-90 percent protection against flu-related hospitalization.

“The vaccine keeps roughly 80 percent of recipients from getting the flu,” Dirk Haselow, MD, State Epidemiologist and Communicable Disease and Immunizations Section Chief at ADH said.

“While it is completely expected to see some of the vaccinated people develop the disease, those people will often have milder symptoms and shorter duration of illness compared to those who are unvaccinated.”

Those most at risk for severe flu-related complications include:
  • pregnant women
  • children under the age of 5
  • people 65 years or older
  • people with chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart disease, or weakened immune systems
Those who are at high risk of flu-related complications are encouraged to visit their doctor if they develop flu-like symptoms including cough, high fever, headache, and/or muscle aches. In children flu symptoms may also include vomiting or diarrhea.

The flu vaccine takes 10 days to two weeks to become effective and it is not too late to get vaccinated. Flu vaccines are available at local health units, private doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and major retailers statewide.

More information is available at the ADH website at and
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