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Louisiana flu season is severe

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana is having a severe flu season, with New Orleans and three nearby parishes getting the worst of it so far.
State health department official Frank Welch says that statewide, more than 8 percent of patients are reporting flu-like symptoms to their doctors.
More than 8 percent of patients are reporting flu-like symptoms to doctors statewide, making it a severe season, Frank Welch, medical director for the Louisiana Department of Health’s immunization program told The New Orleans Advocate.
He said the figure is above 10 percent in the region made up of Orleans, St. Bernard, Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes.
Those patients included Jillian Archer, her husband and their 2-year-old daughter. Archer said she had hoped her daughter’s fever was just a cold, but then all three came down with aches, fever, sore throats and chills. Archer said she and her husband had both had flu shots and were sick for only about a day, but their toddler — who hadn’t — was out of day-care for 2½ weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend flu vaccinations for anyone at least 6 months old.
Welch said it’s not too late to get the shot.
Outside the immediate New Orleans area, Louisiana’s next-highest number for reports of flu-like illnesses are in northwest, central, and southeast Louisiana, where 5 to 10 percent of all patients reported them, according to a state report for the week ending Feb. 2.
That report, the most recent available, showed 2 to 5 percent of all patients reporting such symptoms in other parts of the state.
Welch said the season is not likely to get much worse and is much less active than last year’s, which he described as the worst he’d ever seen.
At its height, around 12 percent of people who went to the doctor last year had flu-like symptoms, Welch said, calling that number “just terrible.”
The two types of flu making up the highest numbers of reports are in this year’s vaccine, he said.
His advice: If you haven’t had this year’s vaccination, do so, because it will make recovery faster if you do get the virus.
And, he said, “If you think you have the flu, stay home.”

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