The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) reported an increase of influenza cases earlier than expected this season.
Test results indicate the recent infections are similar to those the flu vaccine protects against. According to the ADH, those who got the flu vaccine are likely protected from these strains.
The ADH said getting the flu vaccine is the best thing a person can do to prevent getting the flu virus. It can be life-saving for those at risk of developing serious complications.
“Our primary concern are young children, the elder adult population, people with chronic diseases and our big push is for pregnant women to get vaccinated,” said John Taylor, clinical coordinator for the Sebastian County Health Department.
Taylor says the flu vaccine is not harmful to pregnant women or their unborn children. The flu vaccines are preservative free and do not contain thimerosal or mercury.
“The vaccine is a lot better than getting the flu, especially if you’re pregnant," said Taylor. "It can cause harm to your baby, and it could cause harm to you as well.”
Taylor said in extreme cases, the flu can cause death in both mother and child. He urges people to get vaccinated before they show symptoms.
"Usually there's an incubation period so by the time you're showing symptoms, it's way too late," he said.
The flu vaccine is available at pharmacies, a physician's office and at the health department. It costs $30 and is covered by most private insurance companies as well as Medicare and Medicaid.