Flu Outbreak

December 4, 2003--Posted at 4:30 p.m.

JONESBORO, AR--Flu season is off to an early and deadly start.  In Colorado alone, 5 children have already died from the flu. 

Each year 36 thousand Americans die after contracting influenza, and this year many experts are predicting that number could double.

Here in Arkansas, nearly all of the state's 75 counties are reporting cases of influenza, including many here in Region 8.

"Yes, we're off to a pretty nasty start on bad flu," says Dr. Lowery Beck, a pediatrician with the Apache Drive Children's Clinic.

dr. Lowery beck says flu outbreaks often start in children, and this year the flu has struck them early, before many had a chance to get their vaccine and with an intensity that concerns Dr. Beck.

"They feel very bad. They are quite ill," says Dr. Beck.  "We haven't seen any deaths yet, that I'm aware of, but it is very concerning when kids get that sick."

It's not too late to get a flu shot, even for kids as young as 6 months.  And while the vaccine may reduce the risk of contracting influenza, there's no guarantee you won't get it.

The Craighead County Health Department says it has enough vaccine for about 700 more flu shots.  You can also usually get the shot or new flu-mist at your doctor's office.