Deadly start to Arkansas flu season - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Deadly start to Arkansas flu season

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LITTLE ROCK (KATV) -- A deadly start to the flu season in Arkansas as the state health department reported five people have died from the illness.

To make matter more worrisome is health officials admit this is just the beginning stages of the flu season.

Arkansas' health department said it alone gave more than 250,000 flu shots in preparation for this flu season, but with five people already dead this early in the season it's worried more could follow.

"We're seeing relatively high numbers, and the pattern so far this year looks very much like last year," said Dr. Gary Wheeler, Arkansas' Chief of Infectious Disease. "Last year we had a very heavy season with a lot of people with influenza illnesses."

Wheeler added that it's hard to track an exact number of flu cases around the state, but at Rhea Drug in Little Rock, pharmacist Joe Searcy said Monday the flu-fighting prescriptions are going up.

"We've had an increase this year. It seems like over the last few years by this time we've filled one or two prescriptions," Searcy said. "We've had probably a dozen or so (this year), including small children."

To make matters worse, Searcy added flu attacking drugs like Tamiflu can be hard to come by this time of the year.

"It has been spotty. There have been times we've ordered and they've been out, but fortunately we have been able to get it in within a few days," Searcy said.

It's of course never too late for a reminder to help protect you from being the next victim of this spreading illness.

"We're on the upswing of part of the influenza curve right now, so it is not too late to get immunized," Dr. Wheeler said. "It takes about 10-14 days for your flu shot to begin to work, but we've probably got two to three months of influenza left in our community."

Dr. Wheeler continued that the strain being used in the flu vaccine is the correct one to fight the most predominant flu patients are testing positive for right now.

"The most strain that's out there, by a long shot are the strains that are in the influenza vaccine. We also know that the influenza at this point seems to be highly sensitive to drugs used to treat influenza," Wheeler said.