Many cases of the H1N1 influenza have come into the Arkansas Department of Health, so many that department officials are now asking that doctors only send in severe cases.

Ed Barham, spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Health, said there have been many cases of H1N1, also known as swine flu, across the state. 

"We have had many cases across the state. A lot were mild cases, but obviously, we have had some severe cases," he said, noting the state’s first H1N1-related death was announced Friday. "It is important for people to know it has not gone away." 

The H1N1 virus was first found in the United States in April 2009. 

H1N1 has been labeled as a pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control recognize the disease as Phase 6 of a pandemic. This entails human-to-human disease spread in at least two countries. There is also a community-level outbreak in at least one other country in a different World Health Organization region, according to the CDC web site. The disease was originally called "swine flu" because its genes were similar to those found in North American swine. Further study showed the virus has two genes associated with swine from Europe and Asia, avian genes and human genes. It is called a quadruple reassortment virus, according to the CDC web site.

Barham said fortunately the pandemic is not as deadly as a pandemic could be. 

"However, it could change into something more deadly," Barham. "It was overdue. We knew it would get here."

The H1N1 virus symptoms include a fever over 100 degrees, headaches, body aches and unproductive cough. Barham added that some patients also experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. 

"Remember to wash your hands and stay away from people who have the flu," Barham said. 

For those who have any flu-like systems, Barham said they should be sure to cover their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze, stay at home when they are sick and monitor their children.

"This is very transmissible," Barham said, noting that many people, especially children, have no immunity. 

"It is a mild illness. You can recover in three to five days." Barham said. 

He compared the disease to the Type A seasonal influenza, which he said can incapacitate people for up to three weeks. A main difference between H1N1 and seasonal influenza is that it is not effecting older people as a seasonal virus normally does. Barham said it is assumed that these people had antibodies built up from a previous outbreak in the 1970s or earlier. 

"There hasn’t been enough time to study this," he said. 

The average age of the H1N1 patient is 20, according to Barham. 

"When you have kids get together, if one has the flu, soon a bunch more do," Barham said. "It is important to practice respiratory hygiene."

Other target groups for the virus are pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions and health care workers.

Barham said that although many pregnant women are wary of taking medications while pregnant, in this case, the benefits outweigh the harm. 

"Get on the antiviral drugs. The benefits far outweigh the risk. The antiviral drugs are important," he said.

Those who have mild cases of H1N1 should "go home, go to bed and drink clear liquids," Barham said, noting that children should not receive aspirin to reduce fever or for body aches because of the chance of Reye’s Syndrome. Children should receive ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

A vaccine is expected to be available in October. The first to get the vaccine will be those who are in a higher-risk group, although Barham said the shot will eventually be available for everyone.

"It is not going away. It is in every nook and cranny in the state," he said.

(Staff writer Holly Latimer can be reached by e-mail at holly.latimer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)