Arkansas Department of Health

Little Rock, Ark. – The Arkansas Department of Health wants the public to be aware of very high levels of the flu in our state. This flu season has already seen much higher case numbers than the previous two. Indeed, levels of flu are currently higher than at the peak of an average flu season, indicating that we are in a severe flu season. As we move through the holidays, we anticipate flu cases to remain high.

In this week’s flu report, the ADH is reporting 86 flu deaths so far this flu season. ADH reported 30 total flu deaths during the 2021-22 flu season. The flu season with the highest number of flu deaths in the last decade was the 2017-18 flu season with over 220 deaths.

Flu is easily spread through coughing and sneezing or by touching surfaces with the virus on it and then touching the nose or mouth. People of all ages can get the flu, but certain people are more likely to have serious health problems. 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, the ADH strongly recommends that Arkansans get a flu vaccine. It is also recommended that friends, family members and people who provide care to people in these groups get a vaccine, not only to protect themselves but also to decrease the possibility that they might expose their loved ones to the flu. It is not too late to get your flu vaccine.

Annual flu vaccination is recommended for all adults and children six months and older. The flu virus changes from year to year and this year’s vaccine protects against flu viruses expected to cause the most illness this flu season.

“The flu should not be taken lightly,” said Dr. Joel Tumlison, Medical Director for Immunizations at the ADH. “We are encouraging everyone to get a flu shot to protect themselves and their families. It is not too late to get your flu vaccine.”

The flu vaccine is safe and does not cause the flu. Some people may have mild soreness and redness near the site of the shot and a low fever or slight headache. Reasons to skip the flu vaccine include life-threatening allergic reactions to a previous dose of the flu vaccine or an ingredient in the vaccine. However, people with allergies to vaccine ingredients can often receive the vaccine safely, if it is given in a doctor’s office where they can be monitored.

ADH local county health units (LHUs) offer the flu vaccine free of charge. People should bring their insurance cards, though. If they do not have insurance or if their insurance does not cover flu shots, the vaccine will be available at no charge. Flu vaccines are also available at many clinics and pharmacies throughout the state.

COVID-19 cases are also on the rise in Arkansas. The best way to protect yourself is to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations. ADH urges everyone to get one dose of the updated, bivalent vaccine if you haven’t done so yet this fall. If you haven’t received your primary series of COVID-19 vaccine yet or need a bivalent booster, LHUs offer all COVID-19 vaccines free of charge. Bivalent vaccine is available for ages 6 months and older but is especially important for those who are 65 and older.

For vaccinations, contact your local county health unit to make an appointment. Although walk-ins are welcome, we encourage people to make an appointment. COVID-19 vaccines are also available at many clinics and pharmacies throughout the state.