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Arkansas Department of Health reports 5 flu deaths in the last week

The ADH reports five more flu-related deaths in Arkansas in the last week, totaling the number of flu deaths this season to nine.

ARKANSAS, USA — In the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) weekly flu report released Wednesday, it was found that the state is still in a "very high" flu activity level.

The report also says five more people have died from flu-related symptoms in Arkansas in the last week, totaling the number of flu deaths this season to nine.

“Why it’s happening this year is a little hard to say. Some experts are saying we’ve had very two low flu seasons the previous two flu seasons, two years ago was basically didn’t have one, and last year was a very mild flu season because lots of precautions were being taken to avoid respiratory viruses like Covid,” said Dr. Joel Tumlison, Medical Director for Immunizations. 

Since Oct. 2, over 5,000 positive flu tests were reported to the ADH by healthcare providers. However, the health department notes that these numbers reflect a portion of the actual number of flu cases.

"It is presumed that there are many more people actually affected than the report shows," the ADH said in the report.

Nearly 90% of positive flu tests were influenza A, and 11% were influenza B.

“We now know lots of things we can do to prevent ourselves from getting any respiratory virus, including influenza…you know we can our mask and I’d encourage people if you’re worried about it this would be a good time if you’re out in public or in crowded places indoors wear your mask,” Tumlison explained. 

Other key findings:

  • During the 2021-22 flu season, Arkansas reported 30 flu-related deaths
  • Three nursing homes have reported flu outbreaks this season
  • Nationally, the proportion of deaths reported to the National Center for Health Statistics attributed to pneumonia and influenza this week is above the epidemic threshold

ADH says 60% of cases that are reported to them are in children 17 or younger.

"So, the flu is known to spread very easily in schools in fact it amplifies spread by going to school because kids are efficient spreaders typically of the influenza virus and they’re all in class together, so with that spread in schools being on a break might actually help," Dr. Tumlison said. 

According to the CDC, ages 6 months and older are eligible for the influenza vaccine on a yearly basis.

“Remember the difficulty there is it’s our smallest ones and our very elderly who are most likely to suffer the severe cases of the flu to put them in the hospital or cause death,” said Tumlison. 

In the flu report, three nursing homes across the natural state have reported influenza outbreaks this season.

"Statistically, 65 years of age and older are the ones we’re most worried about, Arkansas has every year dozens sometimes hundreds of flu deaths in the vast majority of those year to year regardless of the strain that tends to hit us tends to be our older patients. especially those that tend to have comorbidities, diabetes, COPD, dealing with active cancer of some kind," said Dr. Upton Siddons with Baptist Health Family Clinic Greenwood. 

Dr. Siddons says he has patients who are concerned with the flu vaccine because of their allergy to eggs.

“Unless an extremely severe allergy to eggs, which means that basically your throat closed up and you couldn’t breathe… anaphylactic is what we call it… you should be okay getting the standard flu shot and nowadays because of increased technology there are small portions of flu shots which are set aside for people who do have those severe egg allergies,” Dr. Siddons explained. 

During flu season, ADH produces a weekly report to provide information on flu activity in the state. The report also helps compare how Arkansas measures up nationally. The health department also noted that it reports only a fraction of flu cases since it currently only requires flu-related hospitalizations, deaths, and outbreaks to be reported to the department.

To read the full ADH flu report for the week of Oct. 30 through Nov. 5, click here.


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