COVID, flu season have started

It's cold weather season, which means it's also cold, flu and, now, COVID season.

"Both (flu and COVID) are potentially serious diseases that can lead to hospitalization and death, particularly among those at high-risk," said Danyelle McNeill, a spokesperson for the ADH, on Wednesday. "A good rule during cold and flu season is to stay home when you are feeling ill."

According to the ADH's latest data on COVID cases in Arkansas, released Tuesday afternoon, 63,364 coronavirus cases have been reported statewide so far this year, paling in comparison to the number of cases identified in previous years.

According to reporting by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the ADH stopped reporting daily COVID updates in March, instead reporting data about the virus "similar to how data for other infectious diseases were reported."

According to the ADH's data, 226,563 COVID cases were reported in Arkansas in 2020; 341,573 in 2021; and 398,859 in 2022.

In Union County, 817 COVID cases have been reported so far this year, along with six deaths caused by the virus. That's down significantly from 2,526 cases and 80 deaths in 2020; 4,160 cases and 79 deaths in 2021; and 4,611 cases and 48 deaths in 2022.

The total number of COVID cases reported this month in Arkansas is down just slightly from the number reported last month (5,580 in October). January saw the most COVID cases so far this year, when 10,675 were reported to the ADH. The state saw another spike in August, when 9,476 cases were reported.

McNeill said several COVID variants are currently spreading, most deriving from the omicron variant that emerged in 2022.

"There are dozens of COVID-19 variants nationally and in Arkansas. All of these are derived from the omicron lineages," she said. "We continuously monitor the variant situation, but currently there is no single variant that stands out."

Treatment options for COVID have greatly expanded since 2020, before vaccines were available and other treatments were limited. McNeill said antiviral treatments are available for high-risk COVID patients.

"Antivirals, like Paxlovid, are still used to prevent serious outcomes for people at high-risk for severe illness," she said. "Other medications are available for people who are admitted to the hospital due to COVID."

As for the COVID vaccination, McNeill recommended those interested in getting the shot talk to their doctor.

"Talk with your doctor to help you make decisions about COVID vaccination for yourself and your family," she said.

Flu season, meanwhile, is also going strong. The ADH's latest flu report, which covers the week that ended on Nov. 18, states that there is currently "moderate" spread of the flu in Arkansas, with 678 cases having been reported since October 1.

Additionally, three Arkansans have died as a result of the flu since October 1.

Most of the flu cases identified so far this year have been in children, particularly those between 5 and 17 years old. Flu-related hospitalizations, however, are mainly among those over the age of 65.

In Louisiana, flu levels are "very high," according to data in the ADH's flu report. Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina are currently experiencing "high" flu levels. Flu levels in Texas are "moderate."

Flu- and COVID-like illnesses were responsible for 6.41% of hospital visits the week that ended Nov. 18.

There are some simple steps Arkansans can take to protect against the flu, COVID and other contagious diseases, including maintaining good hand hygiene with frequent washing, wearing a mask in crowded public spaces, social distancing, avoiding contact with those who have COVID or the flu and taking a vaccine.

For more information on COVID or the flu in Arkansas, visit

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