Flu season starts early in Louisiana

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POSTED: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 8:32pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 8:33pm

The number of people reporting influenza like illness symptoms is on the rise in Louisiana, that's according to the Center for Disease Control.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals officials say 21 percent of tests for the flu came out positive for the week of November 18 through 24, which is unusually high for this time of year. Frank Welch, M.D., DHH Director of Immunization Program, said Louisiana traditionally begins flu season around early January and it last through March.

Doctors at Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group Livingston Clinic are getting ready for what experts say could be one of the worst flu seasons in 10 years.

"That was a pretty bad flu season and the indicators is that this year could be similar," Phillip Ehlers, M.D., said.

Ehlers said people can catch the flu and not even know it, because it could take several days for the symptoms to appear.

"The main symptoms are high fever body aches chills you can have nauseous vomiting," Ehlers explained. "You're going to feel achy, and you're going to feel sick."

He said without a flu shot there's a good chance you could catch the virus.

"Only a little bit more than a third of people in America actually get a flu shot, so two thirds of people are running around out there not immunized. You may run across one that has the flu," according to Ehlers.

The medicine in a flu shot takes a few days to kick in, but once it does ehlers says it's 59 percent effective.

Health experts say each year, as many as 60-million americans get the flu. Tens of thousands of people die from the virus.

"Most people yes if they catch the flu they are going to feel sick for a while and they are going to recover, but it can be deadly," Ehlers said.

Doctors say as soon as a person feel those flu like symptoms make sure to come in, because the medicine that could help shorten the time one suffers from the flu only works if taken in the first 24 to 48 hrs after symptoms appear.

"Some people think well if I've already gotten the flu I don't have anything to worry about ," Ehlers stated. "That's not true. There are several strains going around, and if you catch one this month you could catch another one next month."

Ehlers recommends if you feel sick rest up: "You need to stay home. You need to stay home at least until the fever has completely gone away for 24 hours without any medication."

There are several ways to protect oneself from the flu: hand washing, rest, and avoid people who are sick with the virus.

Health experts say everyone over 6 months of age to get a flu vaccine.

To learn more about the flu click here.

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