Just a few short weeks into flu season, the fears of an early arrival are just starting to be felt in Arkansas.
All indications are this will be a long fight with the virus this season.
“Flu began about a month ago and has escalated quite a bit in the last two weeks,” said Dr. William Hawkins, medical director for the more than 30 Baptist Health clinics and urgent care centers. “Flu is hitting earlier than the last couple years certainly. More cases on a daily basis per provider for the first week of November.”
The health department saw this coming, and now some on the staff are personally seeing it spread.
“I'm hearing from doctors around the state that they are seeing a lot more flu,” said Dr. Dirk Haselow, the head epidemiologist for the Arkansas Dept. of Health. “I personally have had the same experience when I've been working here in Little Rock.”
Nationally, the numbers appear to be normal compared to past flu seasons, but the weekly reports from this state's database show a quick explosion of cases.
The first week had 90 positive cases. Week two it jumped by 65. In week three, positive cases reached 250. Then last week a near-doubling to 450, with indicators that number will continue to accelerate.
“I think it's doubling again over this last week,” Dr. Haselow said. “We're aware of at least 50 hospitalizations. It appears that the flu season is starting to hit.”
Dr. Hawkins said his health group is ready as demand ramps up and he is hearing his colleagues and competitors are in good shape as well.
“We're well prepared,” he said. “A large number of clinics around the area should have availability for patients even on a walk-in basis.”
State officials are so far encouraged that this year’s vaccine formulation is matching the flu bug in our area. They also remind everyone that it’s not to late to get a flu shot if they haven’t gotten one yet.