ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Last year’s flu season was very mild, but health leaders are concerned that might not be the case this year.

State epidemiologist, Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, said she anticipates this flu season being severe.

“We don’t have as much masking and social distancing as we did last year and schools are in session and kids are really efficient spreaders of respiratory viruses,” Dillaha said.

Dr. Dillaha said the flu can put a lot of people in the hospital, which could strain hospital staff.

“If we have a significant flu season it could really stress our hospital system again,” Dillaha said.

Flu shots are the best way to help prevent contracting the virus. Health experts say it is safe to get the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.

“We want everyone to stay out of the hospital so we strongly recommend people get their flu shot this year and also go ahead and get their COVID-19 vaccine if they haven’t been vaccinated,” Dillaha said.

Places offering flu shots in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley: