Flu-related deaths of 13 more people, including a child, were reported to the state last week, bringing the number of deaths from the state this flu season to 49, the state Department of Health reported Wednesday.
The child who was included between the ages of 5 and 18 years was the first pediatric death of the state this flu season.
After submersion a week earlier, office visits of patients with flu-like symptoms increased, although not to the level of the end of December. Visits to the emergency room by people with flu-like symptoms fell from the previous week, but accounted for a slightly higher percentage of emergency visits to hospitals.
"Although we seem to have reached a peak, we have not seen a steady decline in cases at this point," said Gary Wheeler, medical director of the Department of Health. "We're still in the middle of the flu season, basically."
Hospital officials in Little Rock, Fort Smith and Fayetteville said they are seeing a steady flow of patients.
Sean Baker, chairman of the department of Mercy Clinic Family Medicine at Fort Smith, said the flu season is one of the worst he's seen in 20 years.
Last week, the Mercy health system opened a flu clinic on the street at their Fort Smith hospital to help manage the increase in patients.
So far, the clinic has been treating about 80 patients per day, Baker said.
"They are busy from the moment they open the door until the moment when the doors are closed," he said.
At the Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, 437 patients tested positive for influenza, including 211 during the first 16 days of January, said James "Buddy" Newton, director of administration and antimicrobial infection at the hospital.
During the previous season, 332 patients tested positive for the flu, he said
"Definitely not slowing down," he said.
Flu season usually begins in the fall and peaks in January or February. This season started earlier than usual, with visits to the emergency room and the doctor increasing significantly in December.
During the week ending on Saturday, approximately 10 percent of patients who visited the doctor had flu-like symptoms, including fever and muscle aches. 19659002] That was an increase of 8.9 percent of patients a week earlier, but still below the 14.4 percent peak at the end of December.
Claims paid by the state Medicaid and Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield program for medical costs related to the flu increased after falling a week earlier, according to a report from the Department of Health.
"It is possible that flu transmission will recover after decreasing when schools closed during the holidays," said Wheeler.
"If we continue to believe that this is a relatively moderate severe year, we could expect in the next two weeks that we would begin to see a decline in cases," with the outbreak continuing to decline for six to eight weeks, "he said. ] With several weeks in the flu season, Wheeler said those who have not been vaccinated should get the flu shot.People can also avoid the flu by washing their hands and beating their fists instead of shaking hands.
Wayne Lyle, an emergency physician at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock, said the number of patients with the flu "seems quite typical of previous years. "
He said he sees 30 to 40 patients a day with the flu, of which three to five are elderly patients who end up hospitalized with pneumonia.
Others are recommended to take over-the-counter medications, like ibuprofen, and they are offered a prescription for Tamiflu, which shortens the disease in some cases, but can also cause headaches and other side effects.
"Some people choose to fill it up. Some choose not to, "he said.
The Health Department said that the other deaths last week included two 45-year-olds -64, bringing the total number of deaths in that age group to seven. deaths have been persons 65 years of age or older.
Typically people 65 years of age or older and young children are most vulnerable to the flu, although infant deaths nationwide have been less common this year than in other years said Wheeler.  "It's devastating to see these deaths, but it's something unfortunate and expected that we see almost every year," he said.
A section on 1/18/2018