Arkansas's number of flu deaths this season is now 25.
Doctor Dirk Haselow, the state's epidemeologist says he thinks the state's flu season has peaked, but total deaths could top 50 before the season is fully over. He says with more flu season ahead, it's not too late to get a flu shot if you haven't had one already.
“The shot is very effective in preventing serious manifestations of the flu. People are 80 percent less likely to be hospitalized and die from the flu if they get their shot. They still may develop an infection, but that infection is typically less severe after having had the shot,” Haselow said.
This year we will probably not see as many flu deaths as last year, according to Haselow, but this strain started affecting the population earlier. Last year's flu strain was deemed responsible for 61 deaths statewide and accounted for the worst flu season on record, according to Haselow.
He also says this year's flu virus is hitting individuals who are generally younger than the normal population of those affected by the flu.
“We want people on the age group between 25 and 50 to understand that even though historically they have not been the targeted group for flu vaccinations that this year they are. There's something different about this strain that targets the younger groups and it would be a great idea to get your shot,” he said.
Dr. Haselow spoke to state lawmakers Friday about this year's flu situation. He says state health officials are monitoring a new more aggressive policy of vaccinations being implemented in New York to see if it could benefit Arkansas in future flu seasons.
New York is the first state requiring flu vaccination of all health care workers, daycare workers and children in schools, according to Haselow.
“After the season is over and as they communicate their findings and the impact of that policy, we will pay attention,” he said.