Arkansas Reports Additional Influenza Virus Cases

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James Phillips, M.D., Branch Chief, Infectious Disease today reported four additional deaths among Arkansans from complications related to 2009 influenza A (H1N1) virus (Swine Flu). These additional deaths bring the total to five Arkansans who have died this year from the 2009 H1N1 flu. The first death in the state from the H1N1 flu was reported on August 10.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this week that nationally there have been 593 deaths and just over 9,000 hospitalizations from the 2009 H1N1 virus.

The Health Department will not be releasing any further details about these cases, including the county of residence, for medical confidentiality reasons.

Dr. Phillips said, “We have H1N1 influenza A all over our state and we knew that we would see deaths from this disease. Our sympathies are with the family and friends. These additional deaths reinforce the importance of the precautionary measures that all Arkansans should take to prevent getting the disease.”

“We believe that the H1N1 vaccine will help us slow the spread of illness and lower the death rate from this flu,” Phillips said. Supplies of the vaccine should be arriving in mid- to late October, according to the CDC.

Priority groups to receive the 2009 H1N1 vaccine are:

* Pregnant women

* Health care workers and emergency responders

* Children and young adults from 6 months to 24 years

* People caring for infants under 6 months of age

* People aged 25 to 64 years of age with underlying medical conditions ( e.g. asthma, diabetes)

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* Combined, these groups would equal approximately 159 million individuals.

In the meantime, Arkansans are urged to take the following actions to stay healthy:

* Wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water to lessen the spread of illness.

* When hand washing is not possible, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

* Cover your mouth and nose with tissue when coughing and sneezing, then wash your hands.

* Stay home if you are sick. You should stay home until you are feeling better and after fever is gone for 24 hours without taking fever reducers. While you are sick, limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

* Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or otherwise appear ill.

* Get a seasonal flu shot each year and when the H1N1 influenza A vaccine is available in Arkansas, get a shot.

Remember the three C’s:

Clean – properly wash your hands frequently
Cover – cover your cough and sneeze
Contain – contain your germs by staying home if you are sick

Symptoms of seasonal and H1N1 flu are the same and can lead to complications, including pneumonia or other life-threatening complications. The symptoms include: fever greater than 100 degrees, body aches, coughing, sore throat, chills, headache and body aches, fatigue, respiratory congestion, and in some cases, diarrhea and vomiting. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should contact their physician or other health care provider for advice.

H1N1 flu is highly contagious and is easily spread from person-to-person through coughing or sneezing and by touching a hard surface with the virus on it and then touching the nose or mouth.

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