Flu cases up in Arizona but numbers can be misleading

Flu cases up in Arizona but numbers can be misleading

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The number of flu cases in Arizona this season is alarming.

According to the Department of Health Services Department, there have been 378 cases already. During the same time last year, there were only 60, an increase of 448 percent.

The numbers in Pima County are equally alarming.

Thirty-four cases this year as opposed to five in 2016. You can check out the DHSD report HERE.

However, Pima County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia said the numbers can be misleading.

"One of the things we've noticed is the flu season started a little bit earlier," he said. "So comparing us to this week last year is not a good comparison."

That comparison statewide is 126 this week this year but only 21 in 2016.

It does not mean the year won't pan out to be a bad, it still could, but Garcia said it's premature to draw conclusions.

"I think in the next month, the next two months, we will have a really good sense of how this is going to pan out," he said.

We saw serious spike in the number of cases in 2015, in large part because the vaccine did not match up with the strain of flu.

But the medical community knew very early on in the season that was the case. There is no indication that it is a bad match this year or at lease so far early in the flu season.

"Last year, by the time we were hitting the holidays certainly, we knew it was going to be a pretty normal year," he said.

Still, just because the severity isn't known yet, doesn't mean people should delay in getting the vaccine.

Although the county and others have embarked on a significant educational campaign about the importance of a flu shot, there's really no way to know home many people get vaccinated.

With children, all vaccinations are reported to the state but that's not the case for adults.

Garcia suggests people who have compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients, all children, the elderly and pregnant women should get vaccinated.

In that group of people, catching the flu can be deadly.

"It's why we have children who die, it's why we have elderly who die from the flu," he said. "If you're healthy and you're well, you're going to do just fine if you get the flu."

Garcia said he was caught off-guard by the release of the numbers without an adequate explanation.

"I was blindsided," he said.

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