Ready or not, flu season is here

Published 7:56 am Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The flu season has started early, and while the state of Louisiana is one of the hardest hit areas, the distribution of the virus in Washington Parish is listed as medium/low, according to Centers for Disease Control reports.

The latest weekly update covers the last week of December during which influenza-like illness activity increased in Louisiana, said Julie Hand, Influenza Surveillance Coordinator, Bioterrorism Surveillance and Epidemiology Response Coordinator for the Louisiana Office of Public Health.

At the time, all samples submitted this season to CDC for subtyping were of the type covered by the vaccine now available, she said. Anybody who has not yet been vaccinated is urged to take the precaution.

According to the report, the virus is spreading rapidly throughout the state and country. The severity of influenza activity is not recorded, but 18 children across the nation have reportedly died from influenza-related illnesses since the 2012-2013 season began.

Still, while the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illnesses was well above the national baseline, the proportion of deaths attributed to influenza and pneumonia was below the epidemic threshold, according to the report.

Before the situation gets worse, people are advised that it’s not too late to get vaccinated.

For those who believe the vaccination will give them the disease, the CDC said the vaccine can cause a reaction that might include aches, pains and even a low-grade fever, but it’s not the flu. Any reaction could last a day or two, but the flu is worse and may be dangerous.

Experts say that up to 20 percent of the population could contract the flu this year.

Influenza is spreading fast, and the vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu, according to the CDC.