ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — As Christmas gatherings are winding down, illnesses are still spreading across Arkansas.
Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the director of the Arkansas Department of Health, said the flu and COVID-19 continue to be the main concerns.
According to the latest Arkansas Department of Health flu report, Arkansas’s flu activity level is a 10 on a scale of 13. That same report shared there have been over 100 flu deaths this season.
Comparing that data to pre-pandemic flu seasons, Dillaha said there were around 120 to 130 flu deaths reported.
However, a lag in reporting could mean flu deaths are even higher than are being logged.
“It is highly likely that we will reach a higher number of flu deaths than we did those two years,” said Dillaha.
The good news is the trend in Arkansas shows flu cases are on the decline. Still, now is not the time to let your guard down.
“We could potentially have a second peak after the first of the year. So, we can’t bank on the fact that since it’s going down, that it will stay down,” said Dillaha.
As for COVID-19, Dr. Joe Thompson with the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, said as of Thursday, over 300 people in Arkansas were in the hospital with the virus. That number is about half of where the state was a year ago with cases due to the Omicron surge.
What’s more concerning for Thompson is the increase in COVID-19 numbers in China. Thompson said ACHI will be watching to see if a new variant of the virus emerges.
If you’re flying home for the holidays or for New Year celebrations, Thompson said airports are hotspots for respiratory virus spread. You should consider wearing a mask to protect the people you’re planning on gathering with.
“Getting onto a plane, getting off the plane, milling about in a closed area in the airport, I would encourage people to think about wearing a mask again just for that short period of time,” said Thompson.
As for when we could see the impacts of the respiratory illnesses from holiday gatherings, Thompson said it could be mid-January before we see the numbers. He said that’s when we should know if any illnesses are going to have another peak.