CDC says Louisiana leading region with flu-like patient visits

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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - We’re not even halfway into flu season and Louisiana has found a way to lead in the numbers.

Image Source: Centers for Disease Control

“I’ve seen flu-like illness prior to October and sometimes after April,” said Dr. Rani Whitfield, a family physician with Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge.

According to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control, flu-like illnesses are more prevalent than the flu itself in Louisiana. Dr. Whitfield says there’s a path to avoiding that: vaccinations.

Dr. Whitfield also says people with symptoms like a sore throat, fever, or cough should avoid touching other people and objects they may come in contact with.

“You can be infectious a day before you have symptoms and up to two weeks after you feel better,” he said.

Dr. Dawn Marcelle with the Louisiana Department of Health adds that people exhibiting flu-like symptoms should practice good cleanliness.

“Wash your hands, just basic hygiene," she said.

Dr. Marcelle says as of the week of Oct. 14, in Louisiana, about 4.6% of patient visits were related to flu-like illnesses. That’s compared to about 3.8% regionally.

Louisiana is in Region 6, which includes Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. According to the CDC, the regional baselines are calculated at the beginning of the influenza season.

She says that percentage could be attributed to low vaccination rates across the board. For the 2018-19 season, 37.2% of adults over 18-years-old got a flu shot and 56.5% of children under 17-years-old got theirs.

“We fall below the national average coverage for both the pediatric population and adult population.," said Dr. Marcelle.

According to LDH, the national vaccination rate average is 47.3% for adults and 63.6% for children.

Dr. Whitfield adds that staying indoors when presenting flu-like symptoms isn’t always the answer. The best way to not spread germs is to avoid being in close quarters with others.

LDH is offering a free flu shot clinic Nov. 22. Those that are uninsured or have insurance are welcome at no cost.

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