Louisiana, and much of the South, has seen widespread and a high number of flu cases this season . Dr. Frank Welch of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals compared this flu season to others in just one word, terrible.
A typical flu season begins in major cities like New York City and Chicago and drifts to the rest of the country, but not this year. Louisiana has been, and is staying, significantly above the rest of the country Welch said.
“I have never seen it where Louisiana and Mississippi are leading the nation in early to mid-September,” Welch said.
On average, 4 out of every 100 hospital visits are for influenza like illness (ILI). In Louisiana, one in 10 visits to the hospital this flu season have been for ILI Welch said.
The percentage of hospital visits for ILI is elevated in every region of the country according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are three strains of the flu floating around, but the South is predominantly seeing the more serious strain, AH3N2, floating around Welch said.
“That strain [AH3N2] makes people sicker for longer with more complications,” Welch said. “It tends to hit people harder.”
If you have the flu stay home, stay alone and call your doctor.
“We don’t want people with the flu going to church, school, doing shopping or going out unless they really have to,” Welch said.
Getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu, according to the CDC. A study published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics showed the flu vaccination significantly reduced a child’s risk of dying from influenza.
The flu shot is not perfect prevention, but it does give protection and can reduce the length and effects of the flu Welch said.
As for those caring for sick family or friends, Welch’s best advice is to cover your cough, wash your hands a lot and get the flu shot.