LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has confirmed 19 flu deaths so far this season.
The confirmed cases have been recorded since Sept. 29.
In a Monday news conference, the ADH said this year’s flu season is causing severe illness and death in adults between the ages of 25 and 50. At the time of the news conference, the ADH said 7 out of 15 victims were in that age group. The ages of the four victims added to the flu deaths total today have not yet been released.
The ADH says multiple hospitalizations in the 25-50 group have also been reported.
It is highly recommended that all individuals in this age group receive a seasonal flu vaccine and promptly visit a doctor should they experience severe flu-like symptoms.
The ADH says the flu is widespread across the state and that this season's numbers so far are similar to last year in terms of flu activity and number of cases.
The most frequently seen flu strain this year is H1N1, which disproportionately affects young to middle-aged adults and pregnant women. There are multiple factors that may explain why younger, healthier people are affected this year. One observation is that only 30 percent of individuals in this age group have been vaccinated against seasonal flu this year. That leaves over 650,000 unvaccinated Arkansans in this age group unprotected from the flu. Individuals who are pregnant or in this age category may experience a rapid onset of symptoms that quickly progress to severe illness. Flu symptoms include: fever over 100 degrees, headache, extreme fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches, dry cough, and runny or stuffy nose. If you have flu symptoms and experience shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, sudden dizziness, or pain or pressure in the chest, seek medical care as quickly as possible.
The flu virus is spread through coughing or sneezing and by touching a hard surface with the virus on it, then touching the nose or mouth. The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated every year. You can also help reduce your risk of flu by washing hands frequently and avoiding those who are sick.
Flu vaccine is available at pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and local health units statewide. If you visit a local health unit to get a flu vaccine, please bring your insurance cards with you. If you do not have insurance, the vaccine will be free.
The 2012-2013 flu season was one of the worst in the past three decades, according to the ADH.
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