The Arkansas Department of Health reported “sporadic” flu activity to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its most recent flu report.
Since Sept. 29, more than 180 positive influenza tests have been reported to the ADH online database by health care providers. More than 80 positive tests were reported last week, the most recent data available.
The average school absenteeism rate last week was 5.1% among public schools. Sebastian and Scott counties were among those reporting school absenteeism rates of over 5%: Sebastian County, 5.72%; Scott County, 6.17%. Crawford, Franklin and Logan counties reported under 5%: Crawford County, 4.73%; Franklin County, 4.56%; Logan County, 3.55%.
“Reported cases reflect only a portion of the actual numbers of flu cases in the state,” the report by Dr. Haytham Safi, ADH Influenza Surveillance coordinator, states.
No flu deaths have been reported so far this season. There were 120 deaths linked to flu last flu season. To date, no nursing homes in Arkansas have reported influenza outbreaks.
About 1.5% of patients visiting emergency rooms were there for influenza-like illnesses last week. About 2% of outpatient visits were for flu-like illnesses.
Among flu antigen tests that can distinguish between influenza A and B virus types, 78% were influenza A and 22% were influenza B.
However, slightly more type B flu virus strains were reported with a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) flu test — three type A and five type B. PCR tests permit the analysis of any short sequence of DNA (or RNA) and can detect viruses with more sensitivity than antigen tests, according to a 2016 study by the Annals of Clinical & Laboratory Science.
There have been 20 positive PCR flu test results from patients in Arkansas reported since Sept. 29 — 13 type B+ strain and 7 type A+ strain. Among those, four have been hospitalized. Most of the positive PCR tests, eight, were among the 5-18 age group.