The Walgreens Flu Index, a weekly report developed to provide state-and market-specific information regarding flu activity, has ranked the Little Rock/Pine Bluff area as the number three most active location in the nation for the virus.

The Walgreens Flu Index is compiled using the drugstore chain’s weekly retail prescription data for antiviral medications used to treat influenza. In addition to the top markets and states, the Flu Index also ranks the markets and states experiencing the greatest gains in activity on a week-over-week basis.

The top area in the nation for flu activity is Oklahoma City, according to the report. Next is El Paso, Texas, followed by Pine Bluff/Little Rock, then Corpus Christi, Texas. Ranked by state, the Flu Index reports that Arkansas is number three in the nation for flu cases. Wyoming is number one, followed by Oklahoma.

Back in Pine Bluff, Leon Carter said he just got over the flu and is thankful.

“It was probably the worst sickness I’ve ever had,” said Carter, 56. “It was one of those things where you can’t even get out of bed or feed yourself you are so weak.”

FLU PREVENTION

The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There also are flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat and prevent flu.

The tips and resources below will help you learn about steps you can take to protect yourself and others from flu and help stop the spread of germs.

Avoid close contact.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

Stay home when you are sick.

If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.

Cover your mouth and nose.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), are spread by cough, sneezing, or unclean hands.

Clean your hands.

Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

Practice other good health habits.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

FLU PREVENTION AT WORK, SCHOOL

• Find out about plans your child’s school, child care program, or college has if an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs and whether flu vaccinations are offered on-site.

• Make sure your child’s school, child care program, or college routinely cleans frequently touched objects and surfaces, and that they have a good supply of tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs, and disposable wipes on-site.

• Ask how sick students and staff are separated from others and who will care for them until they can go home.

• Find out about your employer’s plans if an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs and whether flu vaccinations are offered on-site.

• Routinely clean frequently touched objects and surfaces, including doorknobs, keyboards, and phones, to help remove germs.

• Make sure your workplace has an adequate supply of tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs, and disposable wipes.

• Train others on how to do your job so they can cover for you in case you or a family member gets sick and you have to stay home.

• If you begin to feel sick while at work, go home as soon as possible.

METHODOLOGY

The Index is not intended to illustrate levels or severity of flu activity, but rather, based on this methodology, to show which populations are experiencing the highest incidences of influenza within the U.S. and Puerto Rico each week.

Data for the Walgreens Flu Index is analyzed at state and geographic market levels to measure absolute impact and incremental change of antiviral medications on a per store average basis, and does not include markets in which Walgreens has fewer than 10 retail locations.