BATON ROUGE -Louisiana's flu activity has spiked in recent weeks and continues to be widespread. According to the state's most recent influenza surveillance data, flu symptoms accounted for more than 20 percent of the state's doctor visits last week, up from 12 percent the previous week. The state's seasonal flu activity is most prevalent in North and Central Louisiana and in the Baton Rouge Metropolitan area. Click here to view the 2011 influenza surveillance reports.
Because of the increases, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is strongly encouraging all residents who haven't already done so to protect themselves and their families by getting a seasonal flu vaccination. Each year, the flu kills more than 36,000 Americans.
"It's not too late to vaccinate," said Dr. Frank Welch, director of the state's immunization program. "The flu shot only takes a few days to be effective, and people are usually protected completely within 7-to-10 days of getting the flu vaccine. Vaccines are the best preventive measure we have to help fight the spread of this illness, and we encourage everyone to get their seasonal flu shot to help protect not only themselves, but their families and friends as well."
This year, the CDC recommends everyone older than 6 months get the flu vaccine. This year's flu vaccine will protect against both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus. Medical studies show getting the flu vaccine has proven to be very safe and effective in preventing people from catching the flu.
While everyone should get a flu vaccine, vaccination is especially critical for certain groups of people who are at a higher risk of developing flu-related complications. Those groups include:
"Vaccination is also important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for high-risk individuals to keep from spreading flu to people who may be especially susceptible to the virus' effects. This includes anyone who works with babies younger than 6 months of age, who are not eligible for the vaccine themselves," said Dr. Welch. "This year's vaccine is plentiful and available at many places, including health care providers, pharmacies, some employers and Louisiana's parish health units."
In addition to getting the vaccine, DHH encourages the public to take other preventive actions to stop the spread of the flu:
For more information on flu activity by region in Louisiana and to find out how you can avoid being ill, visit www.fighttheflula.com.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about DHH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's blog at www.myhealthla.org, Twitter at http://twitter.com/La_Health_Dept and search for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals on Facebook.