Arkansas may be on track to see a flu season just as bad, if not worse, than the 2013-14 season. The Arkansas Department of Health says so far, there have been 12 confirmed flu-related deaths. At least six of those were people over the age of 65. Spokeswoman Kerry Krell says the pattern is widespread.
“Predominantly this season we're seeing H3N2,” she says. “It is notorious for causing a lot of illness; causing a lot of hospitalizations, especially in the elderly population.”
There have been more than 8,000 positive tests for the flu antigen in the state since late September, according to the Health Department. Krell says that number may not portray the true extent of the virus in Arkansas, as many cases go unreported or untreated by healthcare providers. Arkansas is one of 43 states to report "widespread" flu activity.
Krell notes that the current flu vaccine has not been completely effective in protecting against the most predominant strain of flu this season.
“The...virus has done what they call 'drifted', so...the one that's been circulating is a little bit different from the one that's in the vaccine.” she says.
However, Krell says it is still important for everyone to get a flu shot. Last flu season was the worst in 30 years, when 76 deaths in the state were attributed to the flu.
More information on the spread of influenza in the state can be found by viewing the weekly influenza report on the ADH's website.
Below are the most recent flu vaccination statistics for Arkansas, as provided by Krell:
Influenza vaccination coverage estimates NIS (National Immunization Survey) and BRFSS (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System)
Cumulative influenza vaccination coverage estimates for all 6 months and older for the 2013–14 season has improved from 47% (ranked 23 nationwide) in 2012-13 season to 49.7% (ranked 15) in 2013-14
For children 6 mon -17years: rate went up too from 62.2% (ranked 12) to 69% (ranked 5)
For adults 18+ years, rates also went up from 42.3 (ranked 27) to 43.9% (ranked 25)
And for 65+, rate improved from 62.6% (ranked 38) to 66.6% (ranked 22)
Vaccination rate among healthcare workers:
Employee: Arkansas rate is 88% (ranked 22)
Licensed Independent Practitioner: 44.3% (ranked 33)
Adult Student/ Trainee & Volunteer: 78.1% (ranked 28)
All Health-Care Personnel: 82.4% (ranked 28), Maryland is number 1 with 96.4%