(LITTLE ROCK) – This year’s flu season is causing severe illness and death in adults between the ages of 25 and 50. Seven out of the 15 deaths this season in Arkansas have occurred in adults between the ages of 25 and 50, and multiple hospitalizations in this group have 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 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% 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.
“An unusually high number of young to middle-aged adults are being hospitalized or dying of flu this season,” Nate Smith, M.D., MPH, State Health Officer and Director of the Arkansas Department of Health said. “This is not something we typically see during an average flu season.”
“We can’t stress enough how critical it is for all individuals to get vaccinated-especially if you’re in this age group,” Smith added. “We know the flu vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective, but it truly can mean the difference between a mild to moderate illness and death.”
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 Polk County Health Unit is located at 702 Hornbeck and may be reached at 479-394-2707.
For more information about flu, go to http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/flu.htm.