FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — According to the Arkansas Department of Health, 11 more people died from the flu in Arkansas during the week ending on Nov. 26. That raises the total number of flu deaths this season to 30.
Dr. Joe Thompson with the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement said the numbers are becoming a concern.
“We have neither seen the rate of infection, the number of hospitalizations or these number of deaths this early in the flu season in the last seven years,” said Thompson.
According to the ADH report, more than 8% of ER visits were flu-related. This shows the growing pressure influenza is putting on hospitals. Arkansas hospitals aren’t overwhelmed at this time, but peak flu season hasn’t arrived.
“We’re not yet having capacity issues like we did in the very peak of the Omicron surge during COVID, but we’re still on the upward slope of the flu transmission. So, I think it’s time for caution,” said Thompson.
When it comes to prevention, Thompson said now is the time for increased hand-washing, good-hygiene practices and getting preventative vaccinations.
Right now, it’s not just the flu that’s spreading. COVID-19 continues to spread at the same time.
“We continue to have a slow burn on COVID. I say a slow burn because we still have over 100 folks in the hospital because of COVID across our state,” said Thompson.
According to Thompson, Thanksgiving will most likely bring a spike in flu cases. The next ADH report could show even higher numbers.
“We weren’t testing many people over the Thanksgiving holiday. So, I think next week, you’re going to see that slope go straight back up like it has been,” said Thompson.
There also continues to be a shortage of flu medication for children. Caul Corbell with Live+Well Pharmacy in Fayetteville is noticing an uptick in flu patients at his pharmacy. He said it’s a day-to-day issue figuring out whether they will have flu medication for kids.
“In several instances, we’ve had to use secondary wholesalers, just to keep it in stock across our three locations,” said Corbell.
While pharmacists can still formulate children’s medication from the adult version, Corbell said it’s worrying that this shortage is happening so early in the flu season.
“It is concerning with the larger suppliers not being able to produce Tamiflu. Also, with the pediatric version being unavailable in most cases,” said Corbell.