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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

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Flu season pretty bad this year

Flu season pretty bad this year

The flu season is here with a vengeance, and this year’s flu shot does not appear to be a good match to the most common strain.

The vaccine isn't as effective as doctors had hoped it would be this flu season. The strain infecting most people around the country, H3N2, has mutated since the vaccine was created in February 2014 and makes the shot less effective for some patients.

It’s estimated that 300,000 Louisiana residents have already contracted the flu, with 3,000 of them requiring hospitalization.

It typically kills about 400 people in Louisiana each year, especially the elderly.

Dr. Frank Welch, immunization medical director for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, said the flu season started early this year and described the flu season in the state so far as "terrible."

"It's going to get worse before it gets better," he said.

Flu outbreaks normally peak in Louisiana this month and into February, resulting in aches, fever and coughs in those infected. But the outbreak has reached high levels since the latter part of 2014, and Welch said he doesn't see any signs of it letting up in the near future.

He does recommend what he calls “kindergarten rules” to help prevent and spread the virus.

“Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough and stay home when you’re not feeling well,” he said.

“It’s not worth getting other people sick.”

Most people who get the flu will not need medical care and will recover in less than two weeks. But some people, however, are more likely to get complications that can result in hospitalization and occasionally even death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications.

To help prevent the spread of flu:

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

• If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.

• While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

• Avoiding crowds and take other measures to keep our distance from others to lessen the spread of flu.