The Grapevine

Arkansas Flu Outbreak Update: 13 Confirmed Deaths

Health officials announced that the flu has already left 13 people dead in Arkansas. Majority of recent cases have been linked to an unusual strain of the influenza virus. The federal government expects to see more infections in early 2020. 

The Arkansas Health Department recorded 895 cases of flu since Sept. 20, 2019. However, officials noted that figure is only a portion of the total number of residents who contracted the virus across the state, 40/29 News reported Thursday

Most of the people who died from flu-related illnesses in the state were adults, aged between 25 and 65. Meanwhile, other state governments are increasing efforts to promote the flu vaccine to prevent new cases. 

This year’s flu season has been associated with the influenza B strain. Health officials and doctors said it is unusual that the virus is more active to date since type A is what normally occurs in late December and early January, WKBW-TV reported Thursday.

"It is unusual,” Kevin Shiley, medical director of infection prevention and control at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, said. “We are seeing the same thing here at our facilities where many of our patients admitted with influenza this year have actually had influenza B.”

The type B flu usually becomes active until the end of the season, between March and April. However, strain B is not significantly different from strain A.

"Some people historically have thought it's a little bit less severe than influenza A," Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein said. "But I can tell you having personally taken care of many patients [with] both influenza A and influenza B, I've seen really bad cases in both instances."

Burstein and other health officials have called on families to consider getting vaccinated to prevent further spread of flu this season. Currently available vaccines are designed against two strains of influenza and two strains of influenza B.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there are 4.5 to 6.5 million flu cases across the U.S. Some states and cities expect to see more cases in the coming months, with some areas already reporting flu-related illnesses higher than the past years. 

Flu vaccine Health care experts recommend that everyone 6 months and older – including the elderly, chronically ill people, and expectant mothers – receive the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available. U.S. Department of Defense