Officials: No H1N1 reported in Carroll County

Friday, January 24, 2014 ~ Updated 4:47 PM

CARROLL COUNTY -- The county hospitals have reported at least 23 confirmed cases of the flu since Dec. 1, 2013, and none of those cases have been type H1N1.

The Eureka Springs Hospital has tested and confirmed five type A flu cases and one type B, but that is not an accurate look at how many people in the Eureka Springs area are being treated for flu symptoms, because many visit private clinics that are not affiliated with the hospital, said Angie Shaw, emergency room director. All six patients visited the emergency room for treatment.

"Through the hospital lab, we have had 17 positive cases of the flu since Dec. 1, with the bulk of those within the last two weeks," said Carolyn Bosshardt, registered nurse and director of infection prevention for Mercy Hospital Berryville. "The cases would have been seen at the clinic or the hospital. These are all confirmed cases through lab testing. Type A seems the predominant one, but we are seeing we have had a few cases of B. Primarily, it has been influenza A."

In the state, there have been 19 cumulative deaths because of the flu, 216 confirmed influenza cases through PCR testing and more than 5,400 antigen test for the flu have been positive since Sept. 29 2013, according to the influenza weekly report from the Arkansas Department of Health. It also stated that 49 of those tests confirmed the H1N1 flu virus. The state report indicated that Carroll County had anywhere from 51 to 101 confirmed cases of flu.

"The flu report that is on our website is a very big underestimation of the burden of the flu on the county and even the state," said Kerry Krell, public information officer for the state health department. "First of all, the antigen test is a rapid test and it has a lot of soft negatives, so someone could test negative but still have the flu. Also, not everyone goes to see a doctor when they get the flu, and some may go to a doctor that will treat them for the flu, but does not test for the flu."

Officials from Mercy and the Carroll County Health Department agree that prevention is the best weapon against the flu. The health department is offering vaccines for $35, but the shot is covered by most insurers and the department would not turn someone down for not being able to pay, said Sherri Plumlee, registered nurse and administrator for the county health department.

"The important thing that people need to know is, if you are ill, stay at home," Plumlee said. "Other than that, good hand washing, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, using tissues and throwing them away and using soap and water or hand sanitizers if you are not around soap and water will help. And obviously, the best prevention is getting the vaccine."

Also if someone thinks they have been exposed to the flu then there are some medications that can help early on, but people have to get them before the first 48 hours after exposure is over, Bosshardt said.

The weekly flu report is available through the state health department's website, www.Healthy.Arkansas.gov.

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