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Flu season ‘could be dangerous’

Last week, the Arkansas Department of Health said the flu is widespread in the state and one local doctor said the flu season, which peaks in January and February, “could be dangerous,” in the Paris area.

“That’s because there are three types of flu showing up this year,” Dr. Jason Richey of Cooper Clinic in Paris said last week.

He said the three types were H1N1, which first surfaced in 2009 and created a big scare, H3N2 and a Type B flu. H1N1 and H3N2 are classified as Type A flu, Richey said.

“The good news is that those were all represented in this year’s flu vaccine,” Richey said. “Ninety-seven percent of what we’ll see will be H1N1 and H3N2 with three percent being the Type B flu. The two Type A flu strains we’re seeing have the worst symptoms and are the most dangerous. We’ve already had two deaths in the state from Type A flu.”

The ADH said last week there have been seven deaths and 270 hospitalizations because of the flu in Arkansas since September. There were 61 deaths because of the flu in the winter of 2012-13, the ADH said.

Arkansas is one of 25 states where the flu is widespread. There are regional outbreaks reported in 20 additional states. According to the Centers for Disease Control, on average, 200,000 people are hospitalized each year with the flu and it kills between 3,000 and 49,000 people a year.

Richey said since October, there have been 21 patients test positive for the flu in Paris this year either at Mercy Hospital or Cooper Clinic.

“The majority of those were in December,” he said. “It will probably hit us full force between the middle and end of January.”

Richey added that those who took a flu vaccination shot last fall should be pretty safe.

“We still have flu vaccine available and if you haven’t been vaccinated, I’d suggest getting vaccinated,” Richey said.

Richey added that Tamiflu available locally covers both Type A flu strains showing up but also said Type A flu can be resistant to some medications.

“Bugs are getting smarter and more resistant,” he said.

Richey also said there is a strain of stomach virus being seen in the area.

“Four people in my immediate family have gotten it and we’ve had more problems with it than with the flu so far,” he said. “It starts abruptly. It hits without warning. It usually lasts between 24 and 36 hours.”

Richey said he’s seen 15 or 16 cases of this stomach virus in the last week.

“This kind of virus hits between November and February,” Richey said. “Most of the patients I’ve seen with this are between ages five and 45. I haven’t seen many elderly people with this.”

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