The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is currently receiving large numbers of reports of flu infections and hospitalizations from all regions of the state and is aware of seven deaths from the flu. ADH encourages everyone six months of age or older to get a flu vaccine.
The flu vaccine is the single best protection against the flu and is very effective in preventing flu infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The vaccine provides 60-80 percent protection against the flu and provides roughly 70-90 percent protection against flu-related hospitalization.
“The vaccine keeps roughly 80 percent of recipients from getting the flu,” Dirk Haselow, MD, state epidemiologist and Communicable Disease and Immunizations section chief at ADH, said.
“While it is completely expected to see some of the vaccinated people develop the disease, those people will often have milder symptoms and shorter duration of illness compared to those who are unvaccinated.”
Those most at risk for severe flu-related complications include:
-- Pregnant women
-- Children under the age of five
-- People 65 years or older
-- People with chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart disease or weakened immune systems
Those who are at high risk of flu-related complications are encouraged to visit their doctor if they develop flu-like symptoms including cough, high fever, headache and/or muscle aches. Children's flu symptoms may also include vomiting or diarrhea.
The flu vaccine takes 10 days to two weeks to become effective and it is not too late to get vaccinated. Flu vaccines are available at local health units, private doctor’s offices, pharmacies and major retailers statewide.
Help protect others around you and help prevent the spread of flu by covering your cough or sneeze. Other steps you can take to help reduce your risk of getting the flu include washing hands frequently and avoiding persons who may be sick. If you should become ill, stay at home to get well until your fever has returned to normal for more than 24 hours and your symptoms have improved.