Arkansas flu numbers low now, but could be on the rise

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - While the seasonal flu is still unpredictable, nationally, the number of cases reported so far this year are on the low side. But, could an increase be on the way?

"We were well into the flu season by this time last year," says AHEC Assistant Professor of Medicine Doctor Shane Speights.

With 2009 came the introduction of H1N1, spreading worldwide, making it the first flu pandemic in 40 years.

"It was such a big deal last year, when we talk about a pandemic influenza. There was so many unknowns. So many things we didn't even know about it," says Speights.

Last year, doctors were seeing cases of influenza occurring in the late summer, early fall. So far this year, the CDC says nationally the flu activity has been relatively low, and cases in Arkansas have been sporadic.

"We had a few cases, just a couple of cases, so far this year. We expect this year to be just a regular seasonal flu, so it's not surprising that we haven't seen tons and tons of cases so far," says Speights.

He says typically, the normal seasonal flu does not start until December and even on into January. "We expect to probably see more in the next couple of months, but it's still too early to tell," says Speights. But adds, the vaccine has helped keep numbers down, a vaccine attacking three different flu strains. "The more vaccine we can get out there, the less we will see it. So mass vaccination has made difference," he says.

Speights says just because the number of cases are low, does not mean it's not important to get vaccinated.  He says don't to wait until the flu season gets here to get your flu shot, because it often takes at least two weeks to take effect.