Deaths this flu season* in Arkansas have risen to 22.
The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) says widespread illness continues across the state.
The ADH says people 65 and older are at a high risk of serious flu-related complications and should seek medical treatment as soon as possible if flu-like symptoms develop.
Flu symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. The flu can be treated with antiviral drugs that work best when started as soon as possible after symptoms develop. Antiviral drugs can shorten the time of illness, lessen the symptoms and help reduce serious complications from flu infection.
"We know that people 65 years and older account for 90 percent of flu-related deaths and for more than 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations in the U.S. each year," Gary Wheeler, MD, Infectious Disease Branch Chief at ADH said.
"Seniors' immune systems are weaker, making it more difficult for their bodies to deal with the flu, which is why it's important they visit their doctor as soon as possible."
It's still not too late to get a flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is the single best protection against the flu and is still available at local health units, pharmacies and doctor's offices. Other groups at high-risk for flu-related complications include pregnant women, children under the age of five and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.
Other steps you can take to help reduce your risk of getting the flu include washing hands often and avoiding people who may be sick.
*Those numbers go back to the official start of flu season in September 2012.
Update (January 16):
Officials from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) say the state is seeing widespread flu activity and, as of today, thirteen people have died from the flu.
Those numbers go back to the official start of flu season back in September 2012.
The ADH also reports it is seeing the most reports of flu cases since the Swine Flu in 2009.
Terry Fox, Washington Regional's Director of Marketing/Public Relations, confirms one of those deaths was at the Northwest Arkansas hospital.
Health officials say it's not too late to get the flu shot but it does take up to two weeks before it is effective. If you think you have the flu, officials advise you to call your doctor immediately.
Worried about getting the flu? Click here to check out some flu shot myths.
The American Red Cross says there are ways to keep from getting the flu. Check out the tips here.
Original report (January 8):
The flu season is proving to be deadly in Arkansas, with reports of seven deaths so far.
The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) says it's getting reports of large numbers of flu infections and hospitalizations from all regions of the state.
ADH encourages everyone six months of age or older to get a flu shot.
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," says Dirk Haselow, MD, State Epidemiologist and Communicable Disease and Immunizations Section Chief at ADH. "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
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.
Help protect others around you and help prevent the spread of flu by covering your cough or sneeze. Other steps you can take to help reduce your risk of getting the flu include washing hands frequently and avoiding persons who may be sick. If you should become ill, stay at home to get well until your fever has returned to normal for more than 24 hours and your symptoms have improved.