It’s the eighth week of 2018, but it’s about week 20 of what has been the worst flu season Arkansas has seen in years.


The Arkansas Department of Health’s weekly influenza report for the week ending Feb. 10 showed more than 43,000 positive flu cases have been reported to the state by health care providers since Oct. 1, 2017.


The report showed public school absenteeism statewide was 8.7 percent. In Van Buren County that rate was 8.97, down slightly from the week before when the rate was 9.52. Clinton School District was closed Feb. 5, so faculty and staff could clean and disinfect the campus.


To date there have been 140 deaths statewide attributed to the flu and three of those have been pediatric deaths.The flu has also struck at 41 nursing homes throughout the state.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported 63 pediatric flu deaths nationwide this season.


About 8.8 percent of emergency room visits were for flu-like illnesses during the week of Feb. 10, along with 11.5 percent of outpatient visits.


Last year the flu season in Arkansas wasn’t nearly as cruel. The March 11, 2017 weekly flu report showed 12,400 positive flu tests at that time during that flu season, which began Oct. 2, 2016.


The majority of flu this year has been identified by the CDC as H3N2 Types A and B.


The Arkansas Department of Health’s weekly flu report is compiled from reported cases of the illness, so while it does represent timing and location of the flu season, there are likely countless additional cases that are “toughed out” at home and go unreported. While particularly helpful for the medical community, the state’s weekly flu report can help schools, government, businesses, and other policy makers stay informed about the flu.