From Staff Reports

Prevention remains a primary defense against the flu, but with mounting statewide numbers of infections, health officials are making sure vaccine is available, and call for anyone who has not been immunized to get it done.

"An unusually high number of young to middle-aged adults are being hospitalized or dying of flu this season," Nate Smith, M.D., director of the Arkansas Department of Health said in the press release. "This is not something we typically see during an average flu season."

Anyone who needs to get a flu vaccination can walk in and get one at a shot clinic Wednesday, Jan. 29, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cabot County Health Unit, county health director Milton Garris said. The Cabot shot clinic is the second of two short-notice clinics held in Lonoke County this week.

The Cabot Health Unit is at 118 S. 1st Street, the corner with Elm Street.

Flu shots are available at the county health units at no charge to individuals, Garris said. "But if they have health insurance they need to bring their insurance papers. If someone does not have health insurance, they will still get a shot. But they will be guided to an in-person adviser about setting it up. But they will get a shot regardless of having insurance or not," he said.

Cabot Schools superintendent Tony Thurman said Monday that the schools had seen a slight increase in absentees.

The week of Nov. 4 had 98 percent attendance, the week of Dec. 16 had 97 percent, the week of Dec 20 saw that change to 91 percent.

"We are having several reports of kids being sick but nothing that would be extremely alarming at this point," Thurman said. "We will continue to monitor, and [Vonda Jacobs, RN, Cabot Schools director of nursing] keeps me updated on excessive sickness at any one location based on nurse feedback," he said.

Other information from the schools is that the custodial staff has been reminded to take extra time to disinfect tables, desks, chairs, doorknobs, light switches, computers, and any other area used regularly by students and staff.

School district advice for parents is to ensure they and their children get a flu vaccination.

Routine precautions include learning to cover coughs and sneezes in the crook of the arm, with tissue paper, even a sleeve, but not one’s hand. Also, stay away from people who are sick.

Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water, and use of hand sanitizers, while avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth are also advised.

Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects with a household disinfectant.

Should a child become sick, they should remain home until their temperature has been below 100F for at least 24 hours.

Garris said that anyone unable to get to the Wednesday shot clinic but wants to come to the county unit for the shot should call first. "There are other things going on at the health unit and we would need to set up a time to give the shot," he said.

There is also the possibility that the vaccine supply at a particular health unit is exhausted, Garris said.

Also, anyone who got a flu shot in the second half of 2013 does not need to get another this season, Garris said. However, by the time fall 2014 arrives, it will likely be time to get another, he said.

The vaccine changes from year to year depending on the flu strain predicted to be most active in a particular season, Garris said.

Flu vaccine is available at pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and other health care providers, Garris said.