Flu kills 8 more in Arkansas; toll up to 36

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Eight people have died from the flu in Arkansas during the past week, bringing the total for the season to 36, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

As of Wednesday, 36 people have died from influenza in Arkansas this flu season. In the past week, there have been 90 flu-case hospital admissions, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/1btUzNb).

State epidemiologist Dirk Haselow said the strain of virus continues to hit people ages 25-64 harder than past flu viruses. He said 27 of the state’s 36 deaths have been in that age group.

“Each season is a little bit unpredictable, but on average they last about 12 weeks,” Haselow said. “This includes six weeks swinging up and six weeks swinging down. I think until it is obvious that we are on the downswing, we have at least six to eight weeks of flu season left.”

The virus has left some people hospitalized, including Lora Rice, of Greenwood.

Her sister, Suzie Stovall, said Rice, 51, has been in the hospital since Dec. 26. Rice was admitted to a Fort Smith hospital but airlifted Thursday to a St. Louis hospital where she’s in critical condition and in a drug-induced coma.

“It started out as a dry scratchy throat and a bad headache right before Christmas,” Stovall said of her sister, who has two children and two grandchildren.

Rice was transferred to the St. Louis hospital so a pulmonary specialist could review her case, Stovall said, and family members are waiting to learn what the next court of treatment is.

Family members of another Arkansas woman say they have made it their mission to encourage people to get flu shots after watching their loved one miscarry her baby while in a coma.

Leslie Creekmore, 29, of Fort Smith, has been in a drug-induced coma since early January. She was admitted to a Fort Smith hospital Jan. 11 and airlifted to a hospital in St. Louis a few days later, where she miscarried.

“When you watch someone fighting for their life and they lose their baby because of it, it changes you,” said Jamie Cook, Creekmore’s sister-in-law. “No one believes it is that bad until it happens to someone close to you.”

Cook said family members plan to campaign to flu vaccinations for the rest of their lives.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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