Flu season is reaching its peak in Louisiana, with flu activity spiking over the last week. Because of this, the Louisiana Department of Health is encouraging Louisianans to catch beads, and not the flu, this Mardi Gras season.
Throughout the country, data is showing that most states are reporting widespread flu activity and Louisiana is no different.
“With parades beginning to roll, large amounts of people will be gathering to enjoy Mardi Gras and it is even more important for people to take steps to protect themselves from the flu,” said Dr. Frank Welch, immunization director for the Louisiana Department of Health. “The first step and best way to do that is to get your flu shot.”
The flu causes approximately 500 deaths and nearly 3,000 hospitalizations each year in Louisiana. However, in Louisiana last year, there were more than 15,000 hospitalizations and more than 1,600 deaths from the flu. Of those more than 1,600 deaths, five were pediatric deaths.
Getting vaccinated not only protects you from the flu, but it also protects those around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, Welch said.
"A flu shot is your best defense in both reducing your chances of getting the flu and spreading it. No one wants their Carnival season ruined by a nasty bout of the flu,” Welch said. "While the flu vaccine is not perfect and some people who get vaccinated may still get the flu, the vaccine may make the illness milder."
The Louisiana Department of Health offers these reminders to help keep people from spreading the flu:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If you have cold symptoms or have fever greater than 100.3, stay away from others until you have not had a fever for 24 hours.
- Call your doctor immediately to see if an antiviral medication is appropriate for you.
- If you are sick, do not visit vulnerable loved ones who may be receiving care in a hospital, nursing home, cancer center or other setting.
- If you are sick, do not kiss babies, pregnant women, grandparents and others who may be at a higher risk of getting sick.
- Cover your cough and sneeze.
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
Flu Shot Facts
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Louisiana Department of Health recommend a yearly flu shot for everyone over 6 months of age who does not have a complicating condition, such as a prior allergic reaction to the flu shot.
A flu shot is especially crucial for people who may be at higher risk for serious complications. This includes babies and young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions and people 65 years and older.
The flu shot is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, who can pass on antibodies to their babies that will help protect them.
The flu shot starts to offer partial protection immediately, but takes about two weeks to offer full protection.
Visit www.ldh.la.gov/fighttheflu for more information and resources.
While receiving your flu shot, inquire about other vaccinations that you may need.