Health official: Arkansas flu death toll at 25

LITTLE ROCK (Arkansas News Bureau) -- The current flu season in Arkansas has claimed at least 25 lives and is accounting for an unusually high percentage of doctor and hospital visits, a state health official told a legislative panel Friday.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Dirk Haselow told the House and Senate committees on public health, welfare and labor that nearly 15 percent of visits to emergency rooms and nearly 10 percent of outpatient visits to clinics and providers in the state are currently related to the flu, which he said is markedly above normal seasonal levels.

The Arkansans who have died from the flu range from 2 months to 77 years, with two of the deaths occurring in children who had no underlying health condition, Haselow said. He told the panel that early in the season, 42 was the average age of the people who died, and now that average is 49. This is unusual because in a typical season, 80 percent to 85 percent of the deaths are among people over 65, he said.

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