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ADH tracking flu, COVID and monkeypox cases as school year begins

The Arkansas Department of Health is keeping a close eye on flu and monkeypox cases as kids head back to school.

ARKANSAS, USA — State health leaders say they're keeping a close eye on COVID-19, monkeypox and flu cases as students return to school.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) says that the state had seen a decline in COVID cases leading into the end of summer break. 

The state department of health is concerned about a potential rise in COVID cases but hopes to see the same trend they saw last year with the Delta variant.

"We were having a downturn of the Delta cases and then when school started," Dr. Dillaha said. "We had upturn but then not too long afterward that turned downward again."

Dr. Dillaha explained that during the COVID pandemic, the country experienced an unusual flu season. After seeing the recent flu situation in Australia, health officials believe the flu season to occur earlier than expected.

"We are expecting that we may also have a normal flu season," Dr. Dillaha said. "So when school starts, we may see flu cases. Typically they'll increase in the fall and peak in the wintertime."

CVS announced the availability of flu vaccines across all their locations. Dr. Dillaha explained that not all pharmacies across Arkansas may have the flu vaccines yet.

"It's still August. Most locations will receive their vaccine supply in September," Dr. Dillaha said.

Dr. Dillaha confirmed 20 cases of monkeypox in Arkansas on Tuesday. While the transmission may not be the same, the department of health director warned people to remain aware of infections, even with pets.

"Hugging, cuddling those kinds of things can transmit monkeypox. So anyone with a rash that could be monkeypox needs to be tested," Dr. Dillaha said. "If they have monkeypox, they need to prevent themselves from spreading it by refraining from any kind of close, close contact with people or animals."

Dr. Dillaha explained that COVID, monkeypox, and the flu could present similar symptoms. She explained that oftentimes, the diseases start with fever and malaise.

"People need to talk to their doctor so that their doctor can do the appropriate tests to rule in or out the different possibilities that the symptoms could represent," Dr. Dillaha said.

For the upcoming flu season, Dr. Dillaha is suggesting Arkansans get a flu vaccine before the end of October. She says most locations should have vaccines readily available by September.

RELATED: Marshall Islands in need of PPE donations amid COVID outbreak

RELATED: Monkeypox patients advised to avoid household pets

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