October 31, 2003 - Posted at 8:11 a.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Flu season has begun in Arkansas, and health officials are urging residents to get their influenza vaccines.
Arkansas is among five states where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the virus has emerged.
The flu is already widespread in Texas, and sporadic outbreaks are in Arkansas, Arizona, Louisiana, Nebraska, and New York.
Arkansas Health Department spokesman Ed Barham says October and November is the best time for getting a flu shot.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease. About 36,000 people in the United States die each year from the illness.
In Arkansas, flu season continues through March, but a person can contract the illness any time of the year. So far this fall, Barham says the department has gotten reports of the flu from eight counties -- Desha, Faulkner, Lonoke, Miller, Perry, Pulaski, Sebastian, and Washington.