Flu hits area early, officials say

Flu hits area early, officials say
(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Mass flu clinics were open for business on Tuesday as doctors and nurses ask people to be ready for the flu.

Heather Johnson, the clinical coordinator at the Craighead County Health Department, said the weather may still be warm, but the time to get your flu shot has arrived.

"We came out here early this year," Johnson said. "Because there have already been some confirmed cases of the flu in Jonesboro. So, we just wanted to start this process early. I know it's 90 degrees outside, but it's time to get that flu shot."

Flu clinics were set up at the Red Wolf Center on the ASU campus and at the Craighead County Health Department in Jonesboro.

Bilinda Norman, an associate professor of nursing at ASU, said they've seen cases of the flu on A State's campus already.

"We've actually had three confirmed cases of the flu on campus," Norman said. "Which actually means we probably means we have some cases of the flu that haven't been confirmed."

That was one of the reasons they decided to set up a clinic on campus.

"It's very important to get your vaccine for the flu," Johnson said. "Right now, we're serving the college community. And they're the ones who think they're healthy and they don't need to worry about getting sick or a flu vaccine. But usually they're the ones if there is going to be a complication, it's going to happen to the population that's maybe 20 to 40. Because they wait to the last minute to go to the doctor."

"These students live in a very confined area," Norman said. "And so many of them live in dormitories and apartments. So, they're around others who may be sick and not even know that they are sick at the moment."

Johnson stressed the vaccine will not give you the flu.

"This is not a live virus," Johnson said. "This is actually a dead virus. So, you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. It does take about two weeks to fully get into your system and give you that good immunity. So, if you were exposed to the flu a couple of days before you got this vaccine or even after a couple of days of receiving it, you could still actually get symptoms of the flu. We would hope that the duration and the severity of your symptoms would be lessened because you received that flu vaccine."

The clinic on A-State's campus was also an opportunity for medical students to get some experience.

"We have our community senior level nursing students out here," Norman said. "They've been giving all the immunizations here and at the Craighead County Health unit today. They're doing an excellent job."

Senior Nursing student Felicia Noel said she was thrilled to get to participate.

"Being able to make sure we have a healthy community," Noel said. "To prevent against the flu. Hopefully, there will not be near as many hospitalizations due to having the flu virus this year."

Forty students helped administer the vaccine both on A-State's campus and at the Craighead County Health Department.

Johnson said the flu isn't something you want to take lightly.

"It is serious," Johnson said. "There are complications that can arise. Someone could get pneumonia. They even talk about how there's over 22,000 flu-related deaths in the United States per year. So, it's not just something to forget about or not pay attention to."

They administered around 1,200 vaccinations at the Red Wolf Center and Craighead County Health Department on Tuesday.

You can get your flu shot at a health unit of the Arkansas Department of Health.

For information about the Craighead County Health Department unit or listing of the health unit in your area, click here.

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