Arkansas health officials are bracing for the upcoming flu season, after the prevous one was the deadliest in three decades. Last year, 227 flu-related deaths were reported to the Arkansas Department of Health.
With this year’s season to begin in less than two weeks, officials are preparing to kick off mass flu vaccination clinics in every county.
2018 has already seen more flu cases compared to this time last year, according to Medical Director for Immunizations Jennifer Dillaha. However she says the flu being seen doesn’t appear to be any worse than previous viruses
“Last year we saw the predominant strain being the Influenza A (H3N2)," said Dillaha. "And this strain is known to have a much greater impact on older adults.”
Of the 227 deaths reported last year over 100 were adults age 65 or older. Dillaha says the groups most likely to experience complications from the flu are those with depressed immune systems like, adults 65 and older, children under the age of two, pregnant women, and those with chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, or HIV. Complications from the flu can include pneumonia, heart and asthma attacks.
Dillaha says she is encouraged that this year’s vaccine appears to be a good match for what the Health Department anticipates will circulate.
"[The flu vaccine] It's about 70 percent effective in keeping people out of the hospital, and about 80 percent effective in keeping people from dying," according to Dillaha.
During the first week of October the Health Department will be offering flu shots in schools all over the state and the mass flu vaccination clinics will begin next week. Dates and locations for those clinics are available on the Health department’s website. The health department is also collaborating with the Arkansas Immunization Action Coalition to produce materials for hour- long flu prevention workshops in community based organizations. Those materials are available at immunizear.org.