Louisiana is experiencing a particularly bad flu season this year and is one of 10 states nationwide with the highest estimated number of flu illnesses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), widespread flu activity has been reported in several southern states including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. In Houston alone four people, including a teenager, have died after contracting the flu.
In Louisiana more than 1,600 new flu cases were reported in the last week, according to the CDC.
The CDC has also noticed a spike in the number of cases of H1N1, also known as the swine flu. The swine flu was prevalent in 2009 and caused serious illnesses around the country that year.
Instances of flu in St. Charles Parish have been popping up over the past month and many across the area have tested positive for the virus.
Doctors gave Destrehan resident Linda Waguespack a steroid shot and Tamiflu after she was diagnosed with the flu. Two weeks later she is still complaining of a lingering cough. She said dealing with the illness was an awful experience.
“It was horrible! Every bone and joint in my body hurt,” she said.
Adrienne White spent Christmas dealing with flu symptoms. In addition to fever and body aches, White said her lungs felt like waterlogged sponges and her sinuses seemed to be blocked by concrete.
“Yeah, Merry Christmas,” she said.
Crystal Leblanc, of Bayou Gauche, began experiencing flu symptoms two weeks ago that included vomiting, fever, sore throat, a runny nose and chills.
“(I) felt like death,” she said. “(Doctor) confirmed it by nose swab and prescribed Tamiflu. Thank God it was gone after four days on meds. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. For everyone out there that has it, feel better soon.”
Those who have flu-like symptoms but are only mildly ill should avoid the emergency room and get an appointment with a doctor who can prescribe medications to deal with the illness, according to the CDC.
For those experiencing emergency symptoms, especially people most susceptible to chronic illnesses related to the flu such as children, those over the age of 65 and pregnant women, a trip to the emergency room is warranted.
For children, emergency flu symptoms include trouble breathing, bluish skin color, irritability, fever with rash and not drinking enough fluids. Emergency symptoms in infants include inability to eat, trouble breathing, no tears when crying and significantly fewer diaper changes than normal.
In adults, emergency flu symptoms include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest and abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion and severe vomiting.
There is still time to get the flu shot as the vaccine is widely available. For the first time ever, this year’s flu shot protects against four separate flu strains, including H1N1.
Visit www.vaccine.healthmap.org to find a vaccination station near you.
The St. Charles Community Health Center is offering the flu shot for $20 at their Norco and Luling facilities.
Liz Teague, chief development officer for the health center, urges anyone who has not gotten the flu shot to do so.
“Every year it is a different vaccine, so it may be different than the previous inoculation you have had done,” she said. “The elderly and children do have a lot of problems when they catch the flu. It is very, very wise for them to be protected.”
Teague cautioned that it takes two weeks to build up immunity to the flu after getting the vaccine.