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Health department says flu causing severe illness, death in young adults

Posted: January 13, 2014 - 4:18pm

This year’s flu season is causing severe illness and even death in typically healthy adults from 25 to 50, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

The health department held a news conference Monday in Little Rock to spread the word that the illness seems to be targeting the age group that may not be as inclined to get the yearly vaccination.

“Typically this group is fairly healthy, said Kerry Krell, ADH spokeswoman. “People these ages are getting very sick very quickly from the flu.”

The heath department said Monday seven out of the 15 flu deaths this season in Arkansas have occurred in that age group.

There are multiple factors that may explain why younger, healthier people are affected this year, according to the health department.

One observation is that only 30 percent of individuals in the age group have been vaccinated.

The most frequently seen flu strain this year is H1N1, which disproportionately affects young to middle-aged adults and pregnant women.

“We can’t stress enough how critical it is for all individuals to get vaccinated - especially if you’re in this age group,” said Dr. Nate Smith, state health officer and director of the Arkansas Department of Health. “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.”

Krell said the department has done a good job of educating the elderly about the vaccine and preventative measures because they’re a vulnerable population.

Children, too, with school shot clinics and pediatrician recommendations have been covered.

Parents of the children, also the children of the elderly population, are in the middle.

Krell said there has been an increase in hospitalizations in the age group.

Flu symptoms include: fever over 100 degrees, headache, extreme fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches, dry cough, and runny or stuffy nose.

The health department recommends anyone showing signs of the flu to visit a doctor as soon as possible.

If flu symptoms are present along with shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, sudden dizziness, or pain or pressure in the chest, seek medical attention immediately.

The virus is spread through coughing or sneezing and by touching a hard surface where the virus is present, then toughing the nose or mouth.

Reduce the risk of catching the flu by washing hands frequently and avoiding sick individuals.

The vaccine is available at pharmacies, doctors’ offices and local health units.

Those without health insurance may receive the vaccine free of charge.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236, or on Twitter @Courtneyism. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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