LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- After Arkansas' worst flu season in roughly two decades, the worst may finally be behind us.
State health officials say the latest numbers out Tuesday indicate this flu season may have peaked. However, ADH says it won't know definitively if that's the case for another week or so.
Since the start of flu season, nearly 47,000 Arkansans have tested positive for the virus. But in the last week, both flu-related emergency room visits and hospital visits have decreased according to ADH data.
The flu also hit many Arkansas schools hard, forcing some campuses to even cancel class. However, Tuesday's flu report shows absenteeism rates are also improving. The statewide average for public school absent rates hit nearly 9% the second week of February. The third week of February showed that figure is down to 7.4%.
Little Rock pediatrician Dr. Jerry Byrum practices at All for Kids Pediatric Clinic and calls this flu season one of the worst of his career. Thankfully, he thinks he's seen the worst of it, as the number of his influenza patients lets up.
"For instance, I've only seen one patient with the flu today," he explained Tuesday. "At the height, I might have seen 12-14 in one day."
He says part of the reason so many kids caught the flu this year is because the vaccine proved to be only 59% effective in children.
While Byrum says he's managed to avoid the virus himself, he's ready to put the flu behind him.
At least 159 Arkansans have died from the flu this season, three of those children. That's more than twice the 62 flu deaths Arkansas saw in the 2016-2017 flu season.
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