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Arizona flu season seeing early emergence of influenza B strain

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PHOENIX — Arizona is about three months into this year’s flu season, and it’s already proving to be much different than the last.

There have been more than 10,500 flu cases so far this season in Arizona, nearly doubling the number of flu cases during this time last year.

“It’s something that we have been keeping an eye on,” said Eugene Livar, bureau chief for epidemiology and disease control for the Arizona Department of Health Services.

“One of the interesting things that we’ve seen since the beginning is that we’ve seen influenza type B be a predominate strain.”

Livar said about 80% of flu cases reported so far have tested positive for influenza B, which usually circulates toward the end of the flu season. Instead, it’s showing up at the beginning.

“One of the important things about that is that type B usually impacts that younger age group within the community,” Livar said.

He added that could be one reason why more children are getting the flu this season. So far, 19% of flu cases involve children 4 years old and younger and 36% involve children ages 5 to 18, compared with 16% and 24% respectively last year.

Livar said it’s not too late to get your flu shot, which he said is one of the best tools to help combat the flu.”

“We would also recommend good hand hygiene,” he said. “Be sure to cough into your elbow or into your shoulder to help prevent the spread of disease.”

“And if you’re sick, avoid going to school or to work until you’re feeling better,” he added.

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