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The number of influenza-related deaths in Arkansas continues to climb with the Arkansas Department of Health reporting 27 deaths this flu season. That’s up from 15 over the past two weeks.

One of those deaths in Arkansas was pediatric, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates a total of 6,600 flu deaths have occurred nationwide including 39 pediatric deaths reported this season.

Nationally, the proportion of deaths reported to the National Center for Health Statistics attributed to pneumonia and influenza increased but remains below the epidemic threshold this week.

The average school absenteeism rate last week was 6.2 percent among public schools statewide. Newton County’s rate of 4.86% was the lowest in the area, followed by Carroll County at 5.96%. Boone County’s rate was 6.24%, but both Marion County’s and Searcy County’s rate was higher than the state average at 7.14% and 9.9% respectively.

As of Jan. 21, ADH is aware that two schools closed briefly due to the flu this season.

During flu season, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) produces a Weekly Influenza Report for clinicians. The report provides information on flu activity in the state. The report also compares influenzalike-illness (ILI) in Arkansas to activity in the U.S. 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. Clinicians and policy makers may find the report helpful in terms of communicating to colleagues and patients about the current status of the flu season.

Report Key Points:

For Week 3, 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, 10,700 positive influenza tests have been reported to the ADH online database by health care providers, with over 1,400 positive tests reported last week. Please note that reported cases reflect only a portion of the actual numbers of flu cases in the state.

• Among flu antigen tests this season that can distinguish between influenza A and B virus types, 47% were influenza A, and 53% were influenza B.

There were 307 positive PCR flu tests from private labs this week: 131 tested positive for influenza A, 175 tested positive for influenza B, and 1 tested positive for both A and B. At the ADH lab, four samples tested positive for influenza A Subtype H1N1, six samples tested positive for influenza B Subtype Victoria, and one sample tested negative for influenza this week.

About 4.6% of patients visiting emergency rooms last week were there for ILI (Syndromic Surveillance). About 5.1% of outpatient visits were for ILI (ILINet sentinel providers).

• Since September 29, 2019, four facilities including two nursing homes have reported influenza outbreaks.

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