Confirmed flu deaths in the state reached 16 Thursday according to Arkansas Department of Health officials.

The department has reported large numbers of reports of flu infections and hospitalizations from all regions of the state.

The number of deaths has doubled in a week according to Thursday’s information. In a release dated Jan. 8, the department had seven confirmed deaths.

Ann Russell, the department’s communications director, said the flu vaccine is still the agency’s recommendation.

"We highly encourage vaccination, and we have a lot of flu vaccine out there. It’s at local health units, pharmacies and doctors’ offices," she said. "The flu vaccine this year is really good in covering the strains of flu that are out there. It’s very effective."

Russell called the notion that one can get sick from the vaccine an "urban legend."

"The vaccine is made with a deadened virus. If you get sick after the shot, it was because you were already coming down with the flu," she said. "And if you do get sick, you’ll have less of the flu because of the shot."

Russell said if you are afraid of needles, the nasal mist is available for people between ages two and 50.

At risk populations, including the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, those on aspirin therapy, and individuals working with elderly or children, are especially encouraged to get the vaccine, she said.

"If you’re sick, stay home. Don’t go to work, and keep your kids home from school."

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to Send us your news at