LITTLE ROCK — Nineteen flu-related deaths have been reported in Arkansas since flu season began, the state Department of Health said Friday.
Flu-related deaths this season already have surpassed the 11 deaths reported during the 2015-16 season, the agency said.
The department is classifying flu activity in the state as widespread, meaning that cases have been reported in all parts of the state.
“We have certainly seen an uptick in cases in the last few weeks,” said Dr. Dirk Haselow, state epidemiologist. “It is not too late to get your flu vaccine. The vaccine takes up to two weeks to begin working fully, so getting the vaccine sooner rather than later is recommended. The good news is that this year’s vaccine seems to be a good match for the flu strains that are circulating.”
Flu symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle or body aches, fatigue and a headache. Symptoms may also include vomiting and diarrhea in children. Influenza antiviral prescription drugs can be used to treat or prevent influenza if started soon after symptoms begin.
Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone age 6 or older, with rare exceptions.
People who are at a higher risk for complications from the flu are especially encouraged to get their flu shot, including children age 2 and younger; adults age 65 and older; pregnant women, or women up to two weeks after delivering a child; people with suppressed immune systems; people with chronic health problems like asthma, diabetes, cancer or heart disease; and residents of nursing homes or other chronic care facilities.
The flu shot is available in Local Health Units in every county, pharmacies and many doctor’s offices.