MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2018

Arkansas reports first death from influenza this year

The Arkansas Department of Health recently confirmed the state's first flu death of the season.

The health department did not release the name or age of the victim, citing privacy laws. All Arkansans are being encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible, according to

Dr. Nate Smith, the health department's deputy director, warned that influenza needs to be taken seriously. He said the 2012 flu season started earlier than usual and that the number of cases in the state are beginning to increase quickly.

"The flu is something that we always take very seriously," Smith said, reports. "For some people, the complications that develop are life-threatening.

"We want people to know that the flu is going around, and the CDC expects this flu season to be particularly severe."

The vaccine generally takes at least 10 days to two weeks before it is fully effective. The health department said the vaccine is available at every local health unit in the state, as well as in private physicians' offices, pharmacies and major retail locations.

The majority of recent confirmed influenza cases are similar to the viruses that the seasonal vaccine protects against, making the vaccine effective against the strains of flu that are circulating, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.