NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — The Arkansas Department of Health is reporting flu cases in Arkansas are very high.

Arkansas has reported 19 deaths related to the flu this season, including one pediatric death. Just last week, there were five more flu deaths.

According to Fayetteville Public Health Officer, Dr. Marti Sharkey, the main two illnesses of concern are the flu and RSV. Both can be severe for those at high risk for complications, young kids and the elderly. Some people who are showing signs of illness at holiday gatherings may say they’ve been tested for diseases and were told they weren’t sick. Sharkey said to be wary of those responses. Most adults aren’t tested for RSV because it tends to present like the common cold.

“I would always question exactly what people mean when they say, ‘I’ve been “tested for everything,”‘” said Sharkey.

Due to the way RSV spreads, Sharkey said you may want to bring out the sanitization materials for Thanksgiving.

“The way it spreads, it’s not just the respiratory droplets, but it also spreads on surfaces,” said Sharkey.

Since RSV has such a negative impact on young kids and infants, Sharkey recommends wearing a mask if you have a cold and know you’re going to be around a small child. You should also avoid physical contact, such as hugs.

While COVID-19 has taken a back seat to illnesses like RSV and the flu this season, Dr. Joel Tumlison with the Arkansas Department of Health said that could change after the Thanksgiving holiday.

“COVID, it’s at a fairly low level. So, it wouldn’t be surprising for it to go up,” said Tumlison.

Even though the flu is spreading, leading to more hospitalizations and deaths in Arkansas, Tumlison said this isn’t because the illness is more severe this year.

“I think the increase in hospitalizations, the deaths we’ve unfortunately seen, are really more a product of having high cases of being infected,” said Tumlison.

Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas is seeing a significant number of positive flu tests. Last week alone, there were over 300 positive cases. The number of positive cases of the flu two weeks before was around 50. The rise in cases means a significant increase in patient volume.