Flu season

Ten more people died from flu-related illnesses in Arkansas during the week that ended Saturday, according to the Arkansas Department of Health’s weekly influenza report.

The recent deaths raise the current flu season total to 46.

The Arkansas Department of Health reported that last week’s absentee rates in Columbia County Schools was 8.4 percent, which is more than twice the normal rate. Absentee rates for neighboring counties were Lafayette, 6.81 percent; Nevada, 8.05 percent; Ouachita, 9.36 percent; and Union, 8.65 percent. The highest school absentee rate in South Arkansas was Grant County, at 13.63 percent.

Dallas County, which includes Fordyce, had the state’s highest absentee rate at 27.37 percent the previous week, but the rate fell to 7.68 percent last week.

The average school absenteeism rate last week was 8.4 percent among public schools. As of February 11, ADH is aware of 36 schools/districts that closed briefly due to the flu this season.

ADH receives reports of only a fraction of flu cases since it only requires reports of hospitalizations, deaths, and outbreaks. Therefore, it is important to understand that the information in the weekly update is representative of the timing and location of activity, but it does not reflect the overall burden of disease. It is presumed that there are many more people actually affected than the report shows.

For Week 6 of calendar 2020, Arkansas reported “Widespread” activity to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for geographic spread of influenza, and “High” or 10 out of 10 for ILI intensity.

Since September 29, 2019, 20,560 positive influenza tests have been reported to the ADH online database by health care providers, with over 2,400 positive tests reported last week.

Among flu antigen tests this season that can distinguish between influenza A and B virus types, 49 percent were influenza A, and 51 percent were influenza B.

There were 498 positive PCR flu tests from private labs this week: 218 tested positive for influenza A, 278 tested positive for influenza B, 1 sample tested positive for influenza B Subtype Victoria, and 1 tested positive for both A and B. At the ADH lab, 17 samples tested positive for influenza A Subtype H1N1, 3 samples tested positive for influenza B Subtype Victoria, and no sample tested negative for flu.

About 7.5 percent of patients visiting emergency rooms last week were there for ILI (Syndromic Surveillance), up 0.5 percent from the previous week.

Since September 29, 2019, 6 facilities including 4 nursing homes have reported influenza outbreaks.

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