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As flu season nears, Arkansas health officials encourage vaccinations

Arkansas health officials are encouraging people to get vaccinated ahead of flu season (Photo: KATV)

Last flu season was one of the worst in the U.S. in the past 30 years.

With the average start to the season coming in October, the Arkansas Department of Health wants to get ahead of the curve and get as many people vaccinated as possible.

For epidemiologist Dirk Haselow, it's a necessity every year.

"You should get it at the first opportunity so that it's not too late," he said.

He is one of the thousands of people that are getting ready for flu season, a time frame that's roughly from October to March. Last year, the flu killed 227 Arkansans.

"The only thing that you can predict about the flu is that it's unpredictable," Haselow said.

With that in mind, the Arkansas Department of Health is telling folks to start getting vaccinated now, because the shot takes about two weeks to truly become effective.

"It's widely available if you want it," said Haselow said.

Haselow says the department gives out about 250,000 vaccines per year but would love to see that number rise.

"There's a huge room for improvement,” he said. “We could improve it by a million if people were following recommendations."

Haselow warned that the flu can infect anyone.

"Even if you're a healthy young man, strapping young man, football player -- you need to get your shot," he said.

Most flu-related deaths last season involved people 65 years of age and older. Of the 227 Arkansans that died, five were children.

Starting next week, the state Department of Health has announced that there will be flu vaccine clinics across Arkansas. The department said that uninsured patients will given the vaccine at no charge.

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