LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Arkansas Department of Health says 16 Arkansans have died from the flu in the current widespread outbreak.
Lisa Washburn, an assistant professor of health in the Family & Consumer Science Division with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service calls the flu strain responsible for the current outbreak "insidious" adding, “Arkansans from the ages of six months to 99 years are being infected, and cases are more severe than in previous years."
“Anyone who can take the flu vaccine should,” Washburn says. “The flu vaccine protects 60-80 percent of those immunized from getting the flu. If you do get the flu after you have been vaccinated, symptoms are likely to be milder and your illness shorter in duration. The flu vaccine also reduces the likelihood of hospitalization if you get sick from the flu.”How do you know if it is the flu or just a cold?What to do to keep yourself and others from getting the flu:
- Get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is the first line of defense to protect against the flu.
- Wash your hands. Second to getting the flu vaccine, frequent and thorough hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the flu. The flu virus is spread mainly through tiny airborne droplets released when coughing and sneezing. Practice thorough hand washing and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers to reduce your risk of becoming sick.
- Stay home. If you, your child or loved one is sick, stay home. Going to work, school or other public places can spread the illness to others.
“If you do get the flu, stay at home until you’ve had no fever for 24 hours,” Washburn says. “Flu symptoms usually persist for seven days, so be certain you are well before returning to your normal routine.”
- Cover your mouth. Also, always cover your cough or sneeze to prevent germs from being released into the air and onto surfaces. Illness-causing germs picked up from contaminated surfaces can easily enter the body through your eyes, nose and mouth, so avoid touching your face.
According to the Arkansas Department of Health, the flu vaccine takes 10 days to two weeks to become effective. It is not too late to be vaccinated. Contact your local health units, private doctor’s offices, pharmacies and major retailers to inquire about vaccine availability.
For more information visit the ADH website at www.healthy.arkansas.gov
or visit www.flu.gov