Arkansas is feeling the effects of a particularly nasty flu epidemic that has hit the nation in the past couple of months. As of this publication, 19 people are confirmed to have died from the flu by the Arkansas Department of Health. The Sun-Times was unable to gather any information to indicate how the flu is affecting Cleburne County specifically, but doctors are saying they have seen an increase in flu cases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, is a "contagious viral infection that affects the respiratory system – your nose throat and lungs. Symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting or diarrhea." If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is advised to visit a doctor to determine if it is indeed the flu and always follow the doctor's recommended treatment.
The contagious period for flu begins before you start to manifest the symptoms. According to the Discovery Fit and Health website, "Most experts agree that adults with a cold or the flu start being contagious about a day before they start experiencing symptoms. For the flu, the contagious period then lasts five to seven days into the illness. For children, the contagious period for the flu can last up to two weeks after they start feeling sick, even if they start feeling better before that." While preventing the spread of the virus before symptoms can be difficult, if not impossible, those experiencing the symptoms should take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. If you deal with the public, washing your hands and using hand sanitizer are highly recommended. It is also extremely important to cover your mouth and nose any time you cough or sneeze. If you are not sick, try to avoid close contact with people that are. Cleburne County Health Director Hazel Thompson stressed these points and advised, "If you are sick, stay home. Be fever free for 24 hours before returning to school or work."
According to Thompson, the flu vaccine is 62% effective against the flu. Those who receive the flu vaccine and still get sick typically have symptoms that are milder than those that did not receive the vaccination. While there are reports from around the country that the vaccine is in short supply, Cleburne County still seems to be in good shape. "We do still have vaccine and are expecting more," said Thompson.
On a side note, Thompson provided an interesting graphic provided by the state showing that, although flu deaths are receiving a lot of media attention this year, they haven't come close to the number of deaths in some previous flu seasons. Most notable among these was the 2009-2010 flu season when H1N1 was in full swing around the country.