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Arkansans urged to take precautions ahead of flu season

The lessons we've all learned during the coronavirus pandemic have kept the flu at bay, but this year may be different.

ARKANSAS, USA — Flu season has arrived and that means the time of year when many people have sore throats and stuffy noses will be in the spotlight.  

“We're coming into fall and winter, or when all respiratory viruses seem to do their worst,” said Robert Hopkins, Professor of Internal Medicine AND Pediatrics and Chief of the Division of Internal Medicine at UAMS.

In an effort to get more Arkansans to roll up their sleeves, the Arkansas Department of Health has been rolling out various flu vaccine clinics. 

“This is, you know, very similar to what is done most flu seasons,” said the ADH  Medical Director for Immunization Dr. Joel Tumlison. “It hasn't been done quite to the same extent, in the prior pandemic years.”

The state health department held its first flu vaccine clinic on Monday in Jefferson County at the county’s health unit— and soon there will be more taking place across the state.

“They’ll be running it, you know, in different communities through the rest of the month of October, likely into the end of the month,” explained Dr. Tumlison, “And then there might even be some that go on into November."

Dr. Tumlison commented that so far, the health department hasn’t seen significant numbers of flu cases in Arkansas.

“Generally, picks up often in November, runs through late March, maybe April, depending on the year,” said Dr. Tumlison.

He also added that he has a hunch the numbers will be higher this year than they have been the last two because people have taken fewer preventative measures.

“The last two flu seasons have been much milder two years ago was really, low. I mean, cases were at or below the baseline level due to all the measures that people were taking from COVID,” said Dr. Tumlison.  

This is why he and other medical experts have urged residents to take precautions sooner rather than later. Not only to protect themselves but to protect the most vulnerable too.

“Ages zero through five can't be vaccinated yet, so we need to protect them by vaccinating their family and those around them,” said Dr. Tumlison. “Also, elderly people 65 and older are much more vulnerable to a serious case of the flu that can hospitalize them

Since COVID-19 is still in the air, Dr. Hopkins recommends that people get an updated covid booster alongside their flu shot.

"If we don't want to do what we can to protect ourselves with vaccination, with boosters, with masks when we're around others that we don't know what their status is, we're taking a chance,” added Dr. Hopkins.

If you would like to learn more about the flu vaccination clinics, click here.

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