LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The growing number of flu cases and flu-related deaths have inspired Arkansas area hospitals and healthcare professionals to encourage everyone in the state to get a flu shot.

Baptist Health, St. Bernards Healthcare, Mercy Hospitals Arkansas, Washington Regional Medical Center and the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement have joined forces in urging people to get their flu shots. The groups remind Arkansans that holiday get-togethers have the potential to spread the flu among family and friends.

“It’s not too late to protect yourself and your loved ones before the holidays,” Baptist Health President and CEO Troy Wells said. “Get your flu shot now so your body can have the best possible protection by Christmas.”

The Arkansas Department of Health reported on Wednesday that there have been 64 flu-related deaths in the state this flu season, 19 of them in the past week, significantly higher numbers than the 30 flu deaths in the 2021-2022 flu season. Of those who died, 75% were unvaccinated, according to ADH.

And this year’s flu season is getting an early start.

“Visits to Arkansas health care providers for the flu are exceptionally high. Flu season usually peaks in January or February, but we are already seeing a level of infections well above the highest average peak in the past five years,” ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson said.

Thompson encouraged caution.

 “It is time to take precautions — safeguard others if you have symptoms by staying home, get tested for treatment, protect yourself and get the shot,” he said.