Baxter County leads state in school absenteeism in health department’s latest report

In the latest Weekly Influenza Report from the Arkansas Department of Health, Baxter has the highest school absenteeism rate of the state's 75 counties at 15.92 percent. Baxter was the only county in the category of between 15 and 20 percent.

The numbers are contained in the reporting week ending Saturday. During the flu season, the Arkansas Department of Health produces a Weekly Influenza Report for clinicians. The report provides information on flu activity in the state.

The absenteeism numbers for Baxter County are in keeping with the steps taken last week eventually closing school campuses at Mountain Home, Cotter and Norfork.

Searcy County had the second highest school absenteeism rate of 10.42 percent. It was the only county in the 10 to 15 percent bracket.

The average school absenteeism rate last week was 7.3 percent among public schools.

Absenteeism rates of the other counties in North Central Arkansas were 9.15 percent in Boone County, 8.21 percent in Marion, 8.03 in Stone, 7.58 in Izard, 7.14 in Fulton and 6.37 percent in Newton.

While Baxter and Searcy counties led the state in school absenteeism, they were not among the 14 where the majority of influenza cases were reported. In North Central Arkansas, only Boone County was among the 14.

Since September 30, 2018, over 7,600 positive influenza tests have been reported to the ADH online database by health care providers. In Week 5, 68 counties reported influenza cases.

The report also compares influenza-like illness in Arkansas to activity in the U.S. ADH receives reports of only a fraction of flu cases. Therefore, department officials note it is important to understand the information in the weekly update is representative of the timing and location of activity, but it does not reflect the overall burden of disease. It is presumed there are many more people actually affected than the report shows.

Among flu antigen tests that can distinguish between influenza A and B virus types, 87 percent were influenza A, and 13 percent were influenza B.

To date, 23 influenza-related deaths have been reported in Arkansas this flu season, including one pediatric death. CDC has reported a total of 24 pediatric deaths nationwide this season.

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