This year's flu season officially ramps up - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

This year's flu season officially ramps up


NEW ORLEANS - This year's flu season officially ramps up.

The Centers for Disease Control lists flu activity in Louisiana as widespread, one of 10 states being hit hard early.

It hit Lucia Jackson like a ton of bricks.

"I'm feverish, dizzy, can't sleep," she said. "I coughed all night, sore throat, headache that you can't cure with Tylenol or Advil."

She's ended 2013 like so many others: sick and waiting to see a doctor.

At the MHM Urgent Care Facility in Metairie, it's a packed house - the result of high levels of influenza being reported in the Southeast.

"I would say it's early and it's strong," said Dr. Bryan Porche. 

He says normally the clinic sees 40 to 50 patients a day. On Monday, they saw 105 patients. The CDC cites widespread infection rates in 10 states - including Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas - much earlier than expected.

With so many visitors in town this time of year, doctors say it's hard not to spread the virus.

"Family members for the holidays, the Superdome packed for bowl games, New Year's parties even. You can do what you can, but a rule of thumb is fever-free for 24 hours, washing your hands very frequently, covering your mouth," said Porche.

Not to mention, a dose of prevention. The CDC reports nationwide in 2012, fewer than half of all Americans were vaccinated,  but it's not too late to get a flu shot.

The good news is there's still plenty of vaccine available, and many places are offering discounts. Doctors say if not for yourself, get vaccinated so you don't give the flu to someone who's high-risk.

The majority of hospitalizations for influenza occur in people 65 and older, and the majority of deaths occur in that group.

But doctors say the H1N1 virus does cause more infections in younger adults. They also say the flu usually runs its course in a week. Which means Lucia Jackson's New Year's Eve plans were not going according to plans.

"Well, we were planning to go to a party, but I don't think they would want me there. So we're staying home," she said.

If you get the flu, you can shorten it by getting to the doctor within 48 hours of the first symptoms. They can prescribe Tamiflu.

Flu season isn't expected to peak until February.



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