Arkansas flu activity still ‘very high;’ 7 more deaths reported in past week

FILE - Briana Halpain (right), a nursing student, administers a flu shot to Linda Martin, a staff member, during the flu shot walk-in clinic in 2022 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. 
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)
FILE - Briana Halpain (right), a nursing student, administers a flu shot to Linda Martin, a staff member, during the flu shot walk-in clinic in 2022 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

Seven flu-related deaths were reported in Arkansas over the past week, raising this season's death toll to 55, the state Department of Health reported Thursday.

The state remains at a "very high" level of flu activity, based on visits to the doctor by people with a fever and cough or sore throat, according to the department's weekly report.

One of the deaths reported in the past week was of a person between ages 25 and 44. Two were people age 45 through 64 and the other 4 were of people age 65 or older.

Of the other people who have died of the flu so far this season, two were age 18-24, three were age 25-44, 11 were 45-64 and 32 were 65 or older.

The department reported that 73% of the 55 people who have died were not vaccinated against the flu.

During the week ending Saturday, 69 people were admitted to hospitals with the flu, down from 85 the previous week, the department reported.

Meanwhile, 61 people were newly hospitalized with covid-19, down from 73 the previous week.

From Oct. 1 through the week ending Feb. 17, Arkansas reported 13,467 confirmed flu cases, up from 11,517 cases as of a week earlier.

Since many people who catch the flu aren't tested, the reported cases make up only a portion of the total cases in the state.

Cases usually peak between December and February, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During last year's flu season, the state had a "minimal" level of activity in early February.

The flu season is generally from October to May. Around this time last year, Arkansas had already reported 139 influenza-related deaths, including one child death.

Twenty-one influenza outbreaks have been reported from nursing homes or other congregate setting institutions this flu season, up from 18 the previous week.

Around this time last year, the Health Department reported a total of 21 outbreaks.

Nationally, the CDC estimates 16,000 deaths from flu so far this season, according to the Health Department report.

During last year's flu season, more than 22,500 positive influenza tests were reported to the state Health Department by the spring.

The Health Department also recorded no new covid-19-related deaths this week, with a total of 701 deaths reported in 2023 and 88 since the start of 2024.

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