In the last two weeks of October, 21 cases of pneumonia were diagnosed at either Cooper Clinic or Mercy Hospital in Paris.

"Twenty-one cases in two weeks is incredible," said Dr. Jason Richey, who practices medicine at Cooper Clinic.

Twelve of the cases were diagnosed at Mercy Hospital and nine were diagnosed at Cooper Clinic.

"That’s the most cases I’ve seen in the 15 years I’ve been here," Dr. Richey said. "People are a lot sicker, too. I’ve had three of the nine cases I saw hospitalized."

Citing the Arkansas Department of Health, Dr. Richey also said this could be a year in which we see more cases of flu and pneumonia.

Why so many?

"I don’t really know why," Dr. Richey said. "Most of the cases we’ve seen so far are people under 65 and that’s very rare. I’d say we’re in the middle of an outbreak and people need to be very cautious about it."

Dr. Richey suggested taking some precautions, such as getting a flu shot, avoiding people who appear sick, practicing good personal hygiene such as frequent hand washing and, if you’re over 65, look into getting a pneumonia vaccination.

Dr. Richey said people hospitalized with pneumonia are spending between three and five days in the hospital. There’s a wide variance in the age groups of cases, too. They range from six months to 62 years, he said.

Most cases diagnosed have been what Dr. Richey called "strep pneumonia."

"That’s the most common type," he said. "It’s being treated pretty easily. I don’t think there’s a resistance to the antibiotics being used to treat pneumonia cases."

Symptoms include cough, fever, sore throat, shortness of breath and sinus drainage. Fever and cough are the most common symptoms, Dr. Richey said.

Dr. Richey added that the number of cases and the severity of them is concerning.

"The number of cases is very incredible," Dr. Ricjey said. "That’s a very great increase. Pneumonia has been our biggest concern, so far. They are the sickest people we’re seeing. We’re seeing very sick people, really sick people with pneumonia."