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Ark. health officials say flu season going strong

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 11, 2013 at 4:56 pm •  Published: January 11, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Nine people, including a child, have died from the flu in Arkansas this season, and health officials said Friday there are indications that the pace of the outbreak is picking up steam.

At Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, Infection Prevention and Control Director Craig Gilliam said doctors have confirmed more cases, 41, this year than all of the last flu season.

"Generally, we don't see the first lab confirmation of influenza until maybe mid-January," Gilliam said.

This week's confirmations are double from last week, he said.

"Our numbers are unusually high compared to the last couple of seasons," Gilliam said.

Arkansas Health Department spokesman Ed Barham said there is no indication that the spread of the flu is slowing, despite data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that some neighboring states have worse outbreaks.

"It's even and steady and bad across the state," Barham said.

The severity of flu season varies by year and the past couple of seasons have been comparatively mild. But in 2009, 54 people died from the flu in Arkansas, the worst in recent years.

Gilliam and Barham said it's wise to be vaccinated against the flu and that it's not too late, even though the virus is spreading. Gilliam said it is particularly important for parents and siblings of infants to be vaccinated as young babies can't receive the vaccine.

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