Last flu season, 113 influenza related deaths were reported in Arkansas. According to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), 71% of the adults who died were unvaccinated or had an unknown vaccine history.

ADH also reported that 28 schools closed briefly due to the flu last season. While only moderate in severity, the 2018-2019 season (www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/mm6824a3.htm) was record-breaking in duration, with flu activity remaining elevated for 21 weeks. The 2017-2018 flu season was the most severe in a decade, with 228 deaths in the state.

If you have not already done so, now is the time to get your flu vaccine. Last week, the ADH began its yearly mass flu vaccine clinic effort, which involves mass vaccine clinics in every county at no cost. Clinics will continue through the beginning of November.  The department will also offer the vaccine at every public school.

People of all ages can get the flu, but certain people are more likely to have serious health problems with it. This includes older adults, young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), people who smoke, and people who live in nursing homes. Therefore, ADH strongly recommends that people in these groups get a flu vaccine. It is also recommended that friends, family members and people who provide care to people in these groups also get a vaccine.

The flu vaccine is safe and does not cause the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a 2017 study (www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/vaccine-reduces-severe-outcomes.htm) showed that flu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients.

Overall, CDC estimates show that flu vaccination coverage has increased over the past decade. Vaccination among kids across all ages was almost 63 percent.

Vaccination coverage among adults is around 45%, leaving more than half of adult Americans unprotected from flu each season.

We have posted the schedules of the mass clinics and school visits on our website, www.arkansashouse.org.

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