Arizona's rising number of influenza cases has reached the "widespread" level, according to the state Department of Health Services. Arizona joins 23 other states with widespread cases of influenza this season.
As of Feb. 17, there were 262 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza reported from 14 counties. The first child death - a teenager from Coconino County - was reported Feb. 19. There have been five deaths linked to influenza in Arizona this year, the Health Services Web site reports. The first case of lab-confirmed influenza this season was reported Nov. 19.
"Flu season is here and you need to protect yourself from germs," interim Health Services director Will Humble said in the press release. "Influenza can be lethal, but you don't have to be a victim. Wash your hands. If you get sick, cover your cough and don't go to work or school."
There have been 147 lab-confirmed cases in Maricopa County this year. At this time last year, there were 2,116 cases of influenza confirmed in the state.
Dr. Brian Tiffany, executive director of Premier Emergency Medical Specialists, which provides emergency medicine specialists for Chandler Regional Medical Center and Mercy Gilbert Medical Center's emergency department, said the state likely hasn't seen a peak of flu cases yet.
"Right now, we're starting to see a little surge in flu cases," Tiffany said.
Influenza is a contagious, respiratory illness. According to the Web site, symptoms include high fever, achiness, cough and feeling tired.
"The main distinction from a cold is influenza comes on strong," the Web site reports. "With the flu, you can be fine in the morning and by lunch, you feel like you were hit by a truck."
Influenza vaccines are still available and recommended, the Web site reports.
"It's never too late to get one," Tiffany said.
While influenza cases are lower at this time than last year, there have been more cases of lab-confirmed respiratory syncytial virus - or RSV - this year.
As of Feb. 17, 1,565 lab-confirmed cases of RSV have been reported to Health Services for the 2008-09 season. In Maricopa County, there have been 1,084 lab-confirmed cases. RSV is a very contagious illness that appears as a moderate to severe cold and can cause severe respiratory problems in the very young and elderly patients.