Cenla health professionals already preparing for flu season

Published: Aug. 29, 2018 at 5:49 PM CDT
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With 90 degree days ahead, it's easy to forget flu season is close by.

"Typically you start to see an outbreak late September, first of October, so that is when we start wanting to vaccinate," said Cabrini Nurse Practitioner Letitia Lincecum.

Lincecum recalled an active 2017-18 season.

"We were kind of seeing a lot of cases into March and April," Lincecum said.

The flu vaccine is something local school-based health centers like Buckeye's don't wait to give. They sent consent forms home during their first week.

"On that consent, we do an attachment that shows we do offer the flu shot here at school," said Buckeye's Nurse Patricia Dauzat. "It is free of charge for parents."

Last flu season saw a severe number of cases and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that included high hospitalization and pediatric mortality rates.

From October 1 to May 19 the CDC's website said clinical labs nationwide tested over 1 million specimens. More than 200,000 of those tested positive. Total pediatric deaths came to 172.

Medical Director for Louisiana Office of Public Health David Holcombe said influenza and pneumonia both hit hard in the state.

"In Louisiana alone, there were five pediatric deaths," Holcombe said. "There were 1,600 Louisianans who died from influenza illnesses, mostly pneumonia, and over 15,000 hospitalizations."

Cabrini has confirmed two influenza cases in their Emergency Department last week. With that in mind, health professionals stressed the importance of sanitation.

"Soap and water, hand sanitizer," Lincecum said. "Cover your mouth when you cough with your elbow, not your hand."

But, most importantly, they stressed the importance of families getting vaccinated early this year.

"We are hoping that by immunizing these children, in the spring we hope to have a decrease in the flu," Dauzat said.

Lincecum knows some are wary of vaccinations, but sees no harm.

"I worked in the ICU for 15 years," Lincecum said. "I never saw anyone die from getting a vaccination, but I saw a lot of people die from influenza. Anywhere from teenagers who were healthy, up to older people who were immunocompromised."

Both the Cabrini Community Clinics and School-Based Health Centers look to get their vaccinations in the next few weeks.