Flu Claims Three Lives In Arkansas; 2016 Outbreak Considered An Epidemic

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FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- With temperatures surpassing 70 degrees in some areas, it may have been easy to forget it is the middle of the winter.

Even though the temperatures have been warm, this year’s flu is already making its way through a large portion of the United States.

“Usually in Arkansas, my experience is that we have seen [the flu] in early-to-mid January. We haven’t seen it yet, but it is on the uptake,” said Melissa Brown, Clinical Director at Medical Arts Pharmacy. “So, it is probably just going to be late this year.”

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, 2016’s strand is H1N1 Type A, the strand that took the nation by storm in 2009.

“This year, the flu is following more of a usual pattern of peaking after the beginning of the calendar year,” said Jennifer Dillaha, Medical Director for Immunizations for the Arkansas Dept. of Health.

Dillaha said three people have already lost their lives to the flu in Arkansas in 2016.

“It has crossed what they call the ‘epidemic threshold.’ It is now classified as an epidemic,” Dillaha said.

Brown said that is why it is important to get a flu shot now.

“It is a very good idea to do it now. Because, when that cold snap hits, that flu virus goes around and [those who already had the shot] will be safe,” Brown said.

“This strain is really severely effecting adults,” Dillaha said.

Health specialists said it is most important for children younger than five, adults over the age of 65, smokers, pregnant women, and those with chronic illnesses to get their shot.

Brown said this year’s vaccine will really help protect everyone from the H1N1 strain.

“The vaccine this year is a very good match,” Brown said.