LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Doctors are saying that, though flu cases are coming around earlier this year, they’re also less harsh than they have been in the past.

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) said in its Nov 2 report that 3,180 positive tests for influenza had been reported since Oct 2. In the Oct 26 report, 1,482 positive tests were reported for the month.

The agency cautions that the 3,180 figure is only a portion of flu cases in the state since it only requires reports of flu-related hospitalizations, deaths, and outbreaks.

Dr. Wendell Pahls, medical director for emergency services at Baptist Health, said the flu numbers are climbing about three to four weeks earlier than most years. The good news is that he also stated the illness is not as harsh as it has historically been.

“We’re just really glad the intensity of the flu is not as bad. If we had another really severe respiratory illness season, I just don’t know how people would get through that,” Pahls said.

Over four percent of patients visiting emergency rooms across Arkansas last week were there for influenza-like illness according to ADH stats. The ADH is also classifying influenza levels in the state as “high” when they were “low” just a week earlier.

“Coming off the last two terrible years of COVID, I think people have been excited to finally get together again,” Dr. Pahls explained. “Unfortunately, when you have a contagious viral illness, any type of large gathering is going to make you more prone to spread the infection.”

All the while, other respiratory illnesses are still a concern for the ADH.

Dr. Joel Tumlison, medical director for immunizations with the ADH, said, “It can be difficult for patients to tell which one it is when they start having symptoms at the beginning. Gosh! Is this a COVID? Is it flu? Is it a cold? Is it RSV?”

ADH’s influenza report for last week added one more flu death bringing the current total to four this season. In the 2021-22 flu season, Arkansas had 30 deaths reported due to a flu-related illness.

To protect your body and ease your mind this year, doctors recommend the flu vaccine for everyone six months or older.

“If you haven’t gotten it yet, then go get it,” Dr. Tumlison encouraged.