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Arkansas fights the fluPosted Tuesday, November 27, 2012, at 10:52 AM
There is good health-care news to report, as a recent study shows that more Arkansans are taking action to protect their health. They are getting vaccinated against the highly contagious and unpredictable seasonal flu virus. In 2011, about 1.3 million people received the flu vaccine in our State. That's closing in on almost half our population. As impressive as that number is, even more impressive is our progress. Arkansas had the largest single-year increase in overall flu immunizations of any state in the union. We jumped from 27th place in 2010 to 10th place in just one year.
This kind of personal responsibility is critical to the health of our communities. Because the flu is so easily transmissible, when we get vaccinations, we protect not only ourselves, but also others in our families, workplaces, and schools. Most of us live and work around people who are at increased risk of severe flu complications. The highest-risk groups include pregnant women, children under two, seniors 65 years or older and people with chronic medical conditions - like asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
The flu can cause terrible discomfort as it attacks the nose, throat and lungs. Still, many people fear the minor pain of a needle prick more than they fear the effects of this potentially lethal disease. Ear and sinus infections, bacterial pneumonia and dehydration can all result from the flu. People who are sick with the flu often miss several days of work or school. In fact, research shows that the flu causes 70 million missed workdays and an estimated $10 billion in lost office productivity annually in the U.S. And sadly, about 36,000 Americans die each year because of the flu.
Flu viruses are hard to predict and are constantly changing. That's why scientists develop different vaccinations each year. This season's vaccine protects against the three strains of influenza virus that research indicates will be most common this year. Once you receive the vaccination, it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop in your body. Since the first case of the flu in Arkansas has already been reported this season, it's important that you get vaccinated as soon as possible if you haven't already.
The Arkansas Department of Health has been administering vaccines throughout the State already this year, at schools, clinics and even polling places during the election. If you have not yet had your vaccine, you can receive one at your local health clinic. While you should bring your insurance information with you if you are covered, you can still receive a vaccine even if you're not.
Flu season usually peaks in January, but can last until May. The number of Arkansans who avoid infection this season will depend on our individual efforts to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Although good hygiene helps, nothing is as effective in fighting the flu as the vaccine. For most of us, there is also no legitimate excuse not to get one. Please make sure you and your families receive a vaccination, and encourage friends and coworkers to do the same.
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