Health Department says flu season tapering off

(KATV)-Reported flu cases have startedto taper off this month. The Arkansas Department of Health reports a youngerdemographic have been most affected by the flu this season. Overall, there havebeen 56 deaths and reported cases are beginning to taper off this month.

"It's almost over. Weare still seeing occasional cases, but the number of cases has dropped offdramatically to the point we were at probably last October," said GaryWheeler, the chief of infectious diseases at the Arkansas Department of Health.

Last season, deaths wereoverwhelmingly from one age demographic: senior citizens. Last season therewere 42 senior citizen deaths. But this season, there was a dramatic decreaseto only 13 deaths.

Adults in the youngerdemographics were affected the most. There were 13 deaths in the 25-44 agedemographic and 26 deaths in the 45-64 age demographic.

"So that's been areal shift toward the younger population," Wheeler said.

Wheeler says the increasecould be the number in that age demographic actually getting flu shots.

"It could be there'sbeen a drop off in the number of people in that category that are gettingimmunized. We know that if we look at the immunization rates across all agegroups, that's one of the lowest group. So that may be one of the issues thisyear," Wheeler said.

KATV reached out to ouryounger viewers on Facebook about why they didn't get a flu shot. One of them toldus, "When I was in college I got the flu shot for free, now I would have topay for it out of pocket so I didn't get one this year."

Another poster said,"At 28 I've never gotten the shot, I have also never had the flu. I won'tget one because it appears I don't currently need it."

Next year the healthdepartment will make a stronger educational push for younger ages to get theflu shot. The department also says its already placed the order for next year'svaccine.