Health Department says flu season tapering off - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Health Department says flu season tapering off

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(KATV)-Reported flu cases have started to taper off this month. The Arkansas Department of Health reports a younger demographic have been most affected by the flu this season. Overall, there have been 56 deaths and reported cases are beginning to taper off this month.

"It's almost over. We are still seeing occasional cases, but the number of cases has dropped off dramatically to the point we were at probably last October," said Gary Wheeler, the chief of infectious diseases at the Arkansas Department of Health.

Last season, deaths were overwhelmingly from one age demographic: senior citizens. Last season there were 42 senior citizen deaths. But this season, there was a dramatic decrease to only 13 deaths.

Adults in the younger demographics were affected the most. There were 13 deaths in the 25-44 age demographic and 26 deaths in the 45-64 age demographic.

"So that's been a real shift toward the younger population," Wheeler said.

Wheeler says the increase could be the number in that age demographic actually getting flu shots.

"It could be there's been a drop off in the number of people in that category that are getting immunized. We know that if we look at the immunization rates across all age groups, that's one of the lowest group. So that may be one of the issues this year," Wheeler said.

KATV reached out to our younger viewers on Facebook about why they didn't get a flu shot. One of them told us, "When I was in college I got the flu shot for free, now I would have to pay for it out of pocket so I didn't get one this year."

Another poster said, "At 28 I've never gotten the shot, I have also never had the flu. I won't get one because it appears I don't currently need it."

Next year the health department will make a stronger educational push for younger ages to get the flu shot. The department also says its already placed the order for next year's vaccine.