The Arkansas Department of Health released its most updated Influenza Weekly Report on Wednesday.
Since Sept. 29, 2019, the ADH has received more than 10,700 positive flu tests across the state from healthcare providers, but officials warn, numbers may be higher due to some cases going unreported.
“Right now, the state as a whole is seeing widespread flu with high intensity,” public information officer Danyelle McNeill told the Log Cabin Democrat.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports all states – with the exception of Oregon, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia – are currently experiencing the same widespread designation.
Officials have said the 2019-20 flu season started early and has already impacted 9.7 million.
Thus far, Arkansas has seen 27 flu-related deaths, a child between 5 and 18 years old is among the deceased. Sixteen of the deceased were older than 65, six were between the ages of 45 and 64 and four were between the ages of 25 and 44.
In Faulkner County, the Conway Regional Medical Center told the Log Cabin Democrat four patients who have had to be admitted due to the flu and another 117 cases reported by the Conway Regional Primary Care Network Clinics.
Baptist Health Medical Center-Conway officials told the LCD they have seen 69 positive flu cases since November.
The CDC estimated a total of 6,600 flu deaths nationally – each year, an average of 25-50 million cases are reported with around 23,600 deaths – 39 of which were pediatric. During the last flu season – October 2018 through early May 2019 – at least 37.4 million people got the flu, at least 531,000 were hospitalized and between 36,400 and 61,200 people died.
Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the medical director of immunizations and outbreak, said the most common viruses they are seeing are the Influenza B Victoria Lineage and Influenza A (H1N1) pdm09.
“I have not seen an analysis yet of how effective the flu vaccine is this year,” she said.
Dillaha said the CDC does track the flu viruses that circulate and analyses the similarities to the four influenza viruses in the current vaccine and in one of the organization’s recent reports, officials warned that the main strain of this year’s flu virus is not a very good match to the flu vaccine administered this year.
Every year the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends viruses that should be targeted in the flu vaccine. This year, WHO officials called for the common virus strain, or Influenza A, which has been the dominant flu strain for 27 years in the U.S. but Influenza B seems to be the strain wreaking havoc this flu season, according to the CDC.
“Influenza B virus infection is more common among children and can cause complications, resulting in hospitalization or death,” the CDC said.
Cumulative data from the CDC’s public health laboratories show 58 percent of people who tested for the flu have received positive results for influenza B, with only 42 percent testing positive for influenza A.
Despite, the CDC and other health officials are still encouraging the public to get that flu shot and abide by the usual advice: get the shot, wash hands frequently, avoid contact with sick people, disinfect and clean, get enough sleep, eat right and don’t forget that vitamin D, be a careful shopper avoiding high-peak shopping hours, don’t touch eyes, nose, and mouth.
“You can’t be overly cautious,” Dr. Trish Perl, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, said, adding it’s mostly common sense. “But you have to be smart. A lot of people don’t recognize how serious the flu can be. I tell patients a lot, ‘While you may not get sick or you might get mildly sick, I see people die from this.’ It’s absolutely true that bad things can happen from the flu.”
Media partners KATV Channel 7 and the Associated Press contributed to this article.