Flu death total up to 46

The flu season continues to hit Arkansas hard, with 46 flu-related deaths since September, according to the state health department.

The ADH said that more than 20,500 cases of the flu have been reported, although that only represents a portion of the flue cases in the state. In the intensity and activity levels reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ADH rated both at the highest level.

School absenteeism rates have increased across the state, with Union County at 8.65%, Columbia at 8.4%, and Ouachita at 9.36%, although Calhoun has the lowest rate in Arkansas at 4.25%. Baxter County in north central Arkansas has been hit the hardest, with a rate of 16.63%. The state health department reported that it was aware of 36 schools/districts that had temporarily closed due to flu cases, including Parkers Chapel last week. Emergency room visits due to the flu were down slightly for the most recent flu report, released on Tuesday, than last week's.

Over the past decade, the deadliest flu season was the 2017-18 season, where more than 200 people died across the state. In 2015-16, only 15 deaths were reported. Across the country, the CDC estimates 16,000 Americans have died from the flu, including 78 children. Nationally, the proporttion of deaths due to pneumonia and flu remains below the epidemic threshold, according to the CDC.

The majority positive cases of the flu reported to the state health department, which represent just a portion of positive flu diagnosis in the state, continues to be influenza B (about 51%) with influenza A at 49%. Influenza B is considered to be more dangerous for children, according to the state health department. Recently, more cases of influenza A have been reported.

Flu shots are still available at the Union County Health Unit in El Dorado. The unit is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday-Friday and until 6 p.m. on Tuesdays.