The Louisiana Department of Health reports today the number of flu cases continues to steadily rise throughout the state and reminds residents that it's not too late to get a flu vaccine.
"From the beginning of November to the end of February, the number of people seeing their doctor for flu-like symptoms nearly doubled, and the percentage of flu tests that came back positive increased nearly tenfold," LDH Immunization Medical Director Dr. Frank Welch said. "Each year 200,000 individuals are hospitalized, and tens of thousands die from the flu in the United States. Getting vaccinated against the flu is the first and most important step in protecting yourself and your loved ones against flu viruses."
This year's vaccine is still plentiful throughout the state and is effective according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC says the vaccine is 60 percent effective this year. Flu shots are available in the community, including at LDH parish health units. Information on where to get vaccinated is available at fighttheflu.la.gov.
LDH and the CDC recommend most individuals over 6 months of age be vaccinated against the flu. It takes about two weeks after receiving a flu vaccine for full protection to set in, but partial protection starts immediately, making now the perfect time to get vaccinated.
"We must protect our families and our communities by getting the flu shot," LDH Secretary Dr. Rebekah E. Gee said. "This illness that takes so many lives is preventable. It is crucial to get vaccinated and stop the spread of the flu."
The CDC reports that flu activity has reached elevated levels in the United States. While Louisiana's flu activity level remains low overall, the number of cases has risen steadily over the past several weeks and is expected to continue to rise.
Individuals can help stop the spread of the flu virus by developing healthy habits in addition to getting vaccinated, including coughing and sneezing into your sleeve or a tissue, washing your hands with soap and water, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and avoiding contact with sick people whenever possible. If you do get sick with the flu, it's important to stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone and limit contact with others.
Flu infections can lead to hospitalization and death. Children, older people and individuals with chronic health conditions are at the most risk for complications related to the flu. LDH and the CDC recommend an annual flu vaccination for anyone 6 months of age and older without a medical condition that prevents him or her from receiving one. Individuals with concerns over vaccination should talk to their medical providers.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state residents.To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.la.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's Twitter account and Facebook.