Flu-related deaths spike in Arkansas; cases rising in northern Arkansas too

Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 12:08 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2022 at 3:10 PM CST
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - In Arkansas, flu death rates have risen above the previous season’s level as transmission rates remain ‘very high.’

In the Arkansas Department of Health’s weekly flu report released Wednesday, the activity level was rated 12 out of 13 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The ADH reports 45 flu-related deaths, including one pediatric death, up from 30 deaths in last week’s report. Of the flu deaths, health officials say 73% were unvaccinated.

Hospitals here in the Ozarks say the effects have been seen.

“Really, the first couple weeks in November, we had just a few cases, but by the middle of November, it really began hitting us hard,” said Stephanie Free with Baxter Health. “We have had several cases, several admissions to the hospital.”

Free says Baxter Health has reported 230 cases this season, resulting in over 60 admissions and one flu-related death.

Health leaders say holiday gatherings may affect the early season spikes.

“Certainly, if you’re symptomatic heading into that and you’re going to be around someone who is a higher risk,” said Brent Rosson with North Arkansas Regional Medical Center. “That risk increases with age and with more medical problems.”

The rise in flu cases has been seen across institutions. In the latest report, 16 nursing homes and other institutions in the state reported outbreaks.

The Cleveland County School District announced it would go online for the remainder of the week due to a flu outbreak. Superintendent Craig Dupuy said it is the first time he’s shut the school’s door because of an influenza outbreak. About 29% of students in the elementary school were out sick Wednesday. The percentage of teachers out was even higher.

Twenty-two teachers, 54 high school students, and 86 elementary students reported sick Wednesday in Cleveland County Schools. The district has about 700 students, with about 300 being elementary students.

“Being mindful of your personal space, washing your hands, wearing a mask when you’re sick are all helpful,” said Rosson. “Those kind of things really did mitigate flu almost to the point of it being no existent in 2020.”

With spikes this early in the flu season, health professionals say you should be cautious leading up to holiday gatherings.

“I think just some common sense things would help a lot, especially as we go into the holidays,” said Rosson. “We did see that from Thanksgiving, where we saw a lot of cases resulting from that get-together.”

CLICK HERE to see the full report from the Arkansas Department of Health.

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