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."
Flu shots are available at the county health units at no charge to individuals, Lonoke County health director Milton 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.
Lonoke Schools superintendent Suzanne Bailey said her district is not being "affected greatly by the flu virus."
"We have had some cases reported in our student body and staff but not a huge amount at this time," Bailey said. "We are happy about that! Hopefully, our students and staff can continue to avoid the illness, at least for the majority of us."
Carlisle Schools superintendent Jason Clark expressed similar sentiment.
"Carlisle Schools have not experienced any more significant absenteeism than usual for this time of year," Clark said. "There have been cases of strep throat, stomach virus, and common cold reported recently, but very few confirmed cases of the flu. Hopefully, this pattern will continue as we move through flu season."
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.