Flu Season Hits Peak, State Health Officials Say

Across Arkansas, 26 people have died in relation to the flu this season, and with six weeks to go, experts said they think it has hit a peak.

Flu season began mid-fall and will end early spring, they said.

Dr. Jim Holden, an emergency room physician at Northwest Medical System in Bentonville, said he has noticed the number of people coming in for the flu rise in the past couple of weeks.

“It’s starting to pick up, and I think flu season is starting to hit,” Holden said. “In the beginning of January, we didn’t see that many cases. But now we’re starting to see more and more.”

The number of flu cases reported at Washington Regional Medical Center peaked last week, said Gina Maddox, hospital spokeswoman.

State officials said about 70 percent of the flu deaths have been in people aged 25 to 64, which is uncommonly young.

Holden said a flu-death is typically from further complications, rather than simply from the illness.

“People that die from the flu are usually very, very young or very elderly or people who get very dehydrated or have electrolyte problems,” he said. “People die after they develop pneumonia and respiratory problems.”

Last flu season, 61 people in the state died, with 42 reported to be older than 65 years old.

The number of students with the flu in the Bentonville School District has been low, according to Deborah Keith, health services coordinator for the district.

Administrators held flu clinics for a few weeks in October for students and staff.

“We have immunized about 40 percent of our staff and students,” Keith said. “It is a huge, huge factor in reducing the amount of kids we’re seeing with the flu.”

Holden said it’s not too late to get a flu shot, and it’s the best way to prevent the sickness.

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