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Arkansas reports increase in respiratory disease cases and deaths



Arkansas – The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has issued an alarming report indicating a significant rise in respiratory disease cases and deaths, including flu, COVID-19, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

For the first time in the 2023-24 flu season, Arkansas has reported a shift from “Low” to “Moderate” influenza-like-illness (ILI) activity levels, as per the ADH weekly viral diseases report for the week ending on November 11. This increase in ILI activity is a concerning development as the state heads into the colder months, which traditionally see higher cases of respiratory illnesses.

The impact of the escalating ILI rates is evident in the latest health statistics. As of November 11, there have been three recorded deaths due to influenza in the current season, marking an increase of one death since the previous week’s report. The rise in emergency room visits further underscores the situation, with 3.46% of ER traffic attributed to ILI. Additionally, visits for COVID-like-illness (CLI) and RSV have also increased, with current rates at 2.92% for CLI and 0.8% for RSV, all higher than the figures reported in the previous week.

Moreover, the rate of outpatient visits for ILI has risen to 3.17%, compared to 2.61% a week earlier. This uptick in respiratory illnesses is not limited to influenza alone. The report also highlights the ongoing impact of COVID-19, with three deaths attributed to the virus in the same week, bringing the total number of COVID-related deaths in Arkansas to 533 for the year.

In response to these rising health concerns, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend annual flu vaccinations for everyone over six months old, barring rare exceptions. The ADH has taken proactive steps by making flu shots available at its local health units throughout the state, encouraging the public to get vaccinated to protect themselves and reduce the strain on healthcare facilities.

The increase in respiratory illnesses in Arkansas is a timely reminder of the importance of vaccinations and health precautions, especially as the state navigates through the flu season amidst the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses.

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