Experts say the flu is particularly bad this year, and the flu shot isn't as effective as it once was, leaving healthcare professionals bracing for impact as the holidays and cooler temperatures approach.
But it’s not stopping them from urging people to still get the flu shot. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is saying some protection is better than none after the New England Journal of Medicine reports this year's flu vaccine may only be about 10 percent effective.
"We are seeing a lot more people that are flu positive on their tests, after they've had their flu vaccine," said Dr. Angy Yeager-Bock, a physician at Med Express Urgent Care on Markham in Little Rock.
According to the Department of Health, the numbers are upsetting but not surprising.
"We watch what happens in the Southern Hemisphere, which is during our summer, to get an idea what may be occurring in the Northern Hemisphere; in the U.S. during our winter,” said Jennifer Dillaha, the Medical Director for Immunizations at the ADH.
The New England Journal of Medicine report said that Australia experienced record-high lab-confirmed flu notifications, outbreaks and higher-than-average numbers of hospitalizations and deaths all caused by the H3N2 strain.
"It's a flu virus that really hits older adults especially hard,” she said.
The flu is spread by "respiratory droplets.” That means sneezing, coughing, spitting. Dr. Yaeger-Bock said you don't even have to be close or around someone you know is sick.
"If you touch that surface, a doorknob or Santa's beard, it could be any number of surfaces that you touch that have the respiratory droplets on them,” Yaeger-Bock explained.
Dillaha says be mindful of those around you if you have a plans for the holidays.
"Even if you're young and healthy and think you might not have problems from the flu, consider getting the flu vaccine. So you don't take it home to someone you love,” Dillaha said.
Three people in Arkansas have died due to flu complications this year.
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