In a flu season that has seen 13 deaths in Arkansas, to date, Hope and Hempstead County are escaping the brunt of the widespread presence of the disease.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that 13 people have died in Arkansas during the current flu season, according to surveillance reports by the Arkansas Department of Health. AP cited Dr. Gary Wheeler, of the ADH, noting that officials expect more deaths through the remainder of the season, but that the spread of the disease appears to be slowing.
Flu surveillance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga., indicates moderate flu activity in Arkansas, but extremely high incidences of the disease in surrounding states, including Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Tennessee.
But, schools in Hempstead County, the most vulnerable concentration of the population, are showing no signs of serious disruption to classes or attendance this year. That stems, largely, from the participation by the Hope, Spring Hill and Blevins schools in mass flu clinics in the Fall, 2012, according to school officials.
“Actually, we had more participate last year; but, it doesn't seem like it was as much a necessity this year,” Hope Schools RN Rene Sells said this morning. “Different campuses have had different impacts, the younger children more than the older children. It seems really to have occurred more while we were out of school for Christmas.”
At Clinton Primary School, the largest campus population in the Hope district, some 600 students participated in a mass vaccination clinic last fall, according to nurse Glenda Newton, LPN.
“We haven't had too much sickness,” Newton said. “Nobody has reported the flu. I've noticed that, in the past years that we've been doing that, the illnesses have dropped.”
Spring Hill Schools Superintendent Angie Raney expressed much the same conclusion.
“It hasn't been a big issue,” Raney said. “A lot of our people had it over Christmas break. We had some, but not like in the past, with high absentees.”
Blevins Superintendent Billy Lee credits the mass vaccination clinic held last October for the lack of problems this winter.
“We haven't had anything significant to this point, like some of the other districts in the state,” Lee said.
He said 90 percent of Blevins students had participated in the immunization clinic.
“Most of our kids had their flu shots,” he said.
Sells said parents who have not had their children immunized should do so.
“It's still not too late,” she said. “The vaccination takes about a week to take effect.”
She said local physicians and several pharmacies have vaccine available; and, some pharmacies offer flu immunizations.
Locally, Walgreen's, Super 1 Pharmacy, and Family Pharmacy have offered immunizations, and Walgreen's and Super 1 are the only pharmacies with vaccine stocks still available for that purpose. Other pharmacies in Hope report that vaccine stocks are diminishing as the flu season continues.
Page 2 of 2 - Statewide, the Arkansas Pharmacists Association issued a statement this week encouraging state residents to get flu immunizations at local participating pharmacies, noting that vaccine stocks can be replenished within 24 to 48 hours if they are depleted.
“There is still plenty of vaccine available but demand is up,” Dr. Eric Crumbaugh, immunization coordinator for the APA said.
According to the ADH, people most at risk for flu-related complications include pregnant women, children under age five, people over age 65, and people with chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart disease or weakened immune system.
Symptoms of the flu include fever or feeling feverish and experiencing chills; chronic cough; sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; muscle or body aches; headaches; fatigue; and, in some cases, vomiting diarrhea, particularly in children.
Frequent hand washing with bacterial soap; covering of the mouth when coughing or sneezing; and use of tissues or handkerchiefs in controlling nasal drainage are “common sense” preventative measures, which the ADH and CDC recommend to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the flu.