LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Deaths from the flu in Arkansas have climbed to 94. Of those, one-third had been vaccinated.
That's what state health officials shared when they joined Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday afternoon to reveal complete details from the latest weekly flu report. [Video below is of the full news conference].
For the week ending Jan. 27 there were 24 deaths. The total of 94 reflects deaths from the flu since Oct. 2017. Two of those who have died were children.
"That is a concern to any parent or grandparent," said Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
"This flu season does seem significantly worse than in the past... targeting age extremes and chronic disease," said Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe.
"This is going to be a record season, I expect," added Dr. Nate Smith, Director and State Health Officer of the Arkansas Department of Health.
Dr. Smith estimated Arkansas could see 300 flu deaths by the end of the season. To put that in perspective, the state recorded 64 last year.
Since 2000, the highest flu death rate in the state was 109 during the 2014-2015 season.
"It's not too late to get a flu shot," Smith said. "What we really need is a universal flu vaccine that would cover all strains and be highly effective year after year."
Health officials said the flu season in Arkansas hasn't peaked yet but hopes it will in the next couple of weeks.
"This season has been pretty rough," said Donna Wright, an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) and the president and CEO of ARC Walk-In Clinic in Little Rock. "It's been one of the worst I've seen in my 30 years of practice. People need to be vaccinated. It beats getting the flu. Trust me."
Wright said 20 to 50 of her patients have tested positive for the flu every week of this season.
Her office is searching for high-risk flu patients, including those with asthma or diabetes, to participate in clinical trial for a study drug and Tamiflu.
Report Key Points:
- For Week 4, Arkansas reported “Widespread” activity to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC) for geographic spread of influenza, and “High” or 10/10 for ILI (Influenza like illness) intensity.
- Since October 1, 2017, over 32,000 positive influenza tests have been reported to the ADH online database by health care providers. In Week 4, 71 counties reported influenza cases. The majority of reports came from Benton, Pulaski, Faulkner, Washington, Sebastian, Craighead, Garland, Independence, White, Randolph, and Saline.
- Among flu antigen tests that can distinguish between influenza A and B virus types, 71 percent were influenza A, and 29 percent were influenza B.
- There were 320 positive PCR flu tests last week from private labs: 156 influenza A, and 163 influenza B; 1 positive influenza A subtype H3N2. At the ADH lab, there were 5 positive influenza A subtype H3N2, 1 positive influenza A subtype H1N1, 1 positive influenza B subtype Yamagata; 4 samples tested negative this week.
- About 7.9 percent of patients visiting emergency rooms last week were there for ILI. About 8.2 percent of outpatient visits were for ILI.
- The average school absenteeism rate last week was 7.7 percent among public schools.
- Since October 1, 2017, 44 facilities including 34 nursing homes have reported influenza outbreaks.
- The proportion of deaths reported to the National Center for Health Statistics attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) was above the system-specific epidemic threshold.
- For Week 3, the geographic spread of influenza was reported as widespread in Puerto Rico and 49 states, Guam reported regional activity, the District of Columbia and 1 state reported local activity, the U.S. Virgin Islands reported sporadic activities.
- You can report flu year-round and view the weekly influenza report during the influenza season at: http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/influenza.
Click here for the latest report for the week ending Jan. 27.