SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — After the longest flu season in a decade last year, this flu season started early with Louisiana ranked worst in the country by mid-October.
That’s all according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And the second peak of flu season is fast approaching, if it hasn’t hit already.
In fact, of all the people visiting hospitals and medical clinics throughout Northwest Louisiana, almost 11 percent were because of flu-like symptoms.
That’s nearly triple the average rate.
That’s the word from Dr. Martha Whyte, regional medical director with the Louisiana Health Department.
If there was any doubt about the arrival of flu season, just ask parents like Lakesha Doyle, whose 8-year-old daughter caught the flu.
"She didn't eat. She lost her appetite, was laying around, because she's really active."
Doyle described a severe and long-lasting case of the flu for her daughter, which made for a difficult Christmas.
"Because she stayed sick the whole break. The whole two weeks they were out."
Health officials, including Registered Nurse Kelly Gardner, cautioned that not enough people are getting their flu shot this season.
"Twenty-six percent of adults will not get a flu shot."
Gardner, among others, blames that in part on the misconception that the flu shot can give you the flu.
“The vaccines have a(n) inactivated virus. So you’re not able to get the flu from it.”
Sneezing is one of the biggest ways that the flu virus is spread.
That’s because a lot of times, all that particulate goes out into the air. Or it goes onto a person’s hands.
Then, people use those very same hands to touch their desk, phone, keyboard, door knobs, faucets and anything else you can imagine to infect all those areas.
That's why health officials urge people to use their bent elbow and sneeze into it.
Then you can wash your hands immediately afterward.
As for Lakesha Doyle, she has some advice for parents. “Just be aware of, you know, be attentive; aware.”
Gardner also suggested that anyone who suspects they have the flu to limit their exposure to others.
She especially emphasized avoiding exposure to small children or the elderly, or anyone else with a potentially compromised immune system.
Finally, health officials reminded the public that flu shots are free at Louisiana health units.