Influenza activity increases in Arkansas; shots still available


LITTLE ROCK — In the last two weeks, the Arkansas Department of Health has seen an increase in influenza reports in Arkansas.

Although flu activity generally peaks in January or later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that flu activity in the south central and southeast regions of the United States has increased earlier than expected. Outpatient visits and emergency department visits for influenza-like illness in Arkansas have increased to well above seasonal norms. Arkansas physicians have also reported a higher level of laboratory tests that are positive for the flu.

Analysis of laboratory samples at the CDC have shown that the majority of the recent infections are similar to the viruses that the seasonal vaccine protects against. If you get the flu vaccine, you are likely to be protected from the strains of flu that are circulating.

“We know that there is flu in the state. The time to get a flu vaccine is now, before you get sick,” said Dr. Gary Wheeler, ADH Infection Disease branch chief.

This year’s mass flu vaccination clinics have wrapped up after administering 61,823 doses of vaccine in 107 mass clinics held statewide between Oct. 22 and Nov. 16. There is plenty of vaccine available at local health units in each county and at pharmacies and doctor’s offices across the state.

The ADH is reporting a strong record of vaccination at the mass flu clinics, school flu clinics and at day cares and other agencies. As of Dec. 4, ADH administered 235,550 doses of vaccine statewide.

“With the ADH statewide vaccination effort and the effort of pharmacies, physicians’ offices and hospitals, we know that many Arkansans are protected. We take flu very seriously. Please get your flu vaccine if you haven’t done so yet,” Wheeler said.

ADH is partnering with the Arkansas Pharmacists Association during National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 2-8. The CDC established NIVW in 2005 to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond.

An annual flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent flu. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated. A flu vaccine can protect you from influenza illness and can be life-saving for those who are at-risk of developing serious flu complications, like people with asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease and pregnant women.

For more information about the flu and the importance of flu shots, visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov or call your local county health unit.