January 31, 2014 at 10:00 PM CST - Updated July 2 at 8:05 AM
BATON ROUGE, LA - The flu season has claimed the life of a second child in Louisiana. In the latest flu report to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state health officials confirm a pediatric death occurred in Southeast Louisiana, but the report does not give details on the age or hometown of the patient. The first pediatric death was reported earlier in Northwest Louisiana.
Since the flu season began in October of 2013, high tech lab tests have confirmed at least 46 deaths statewide from influenza. However, it's estimated the actual number is much higher. Health officials say hundreds of people die in Louisiana each year without ever being diagnosed with the flu or from other conditions made worse by influenza, so this figure does not represent the full risk to the population of the flu.
The CDC estimates that as many as 500,000 may have come down with the flu in Louisiana, with 5,000 people ending up in hospitals. The CDC believes the flu may be responsible for as many as 500 deaths across the state.
H1N1 is the dominant strain of flu that is circulating right now. All can be deadly. Louisiana's flu activity remains widespread and high. Health officials expect this year's flu season to continue into April. According to the state's most recent influenza surveillance data, flu symptoms accounted for about 4.7 percent of the state's doctor visits last week. The state's seasonal flu activity is most prevalent in North and Central Louisiana.
Because of the increases, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is strongly encouraging all residents who haven't already done so to protect themselves and their families by getting a seasonal flu vaccination.
"The flu shot is your best protection," said J.T. Lane, assistant secretary for Public Health. "It's not too late to vaccinate. Once you get the shot, it takes about 7-10 days to be fully protected. This year's vaccination will protect against the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus."
The CDC recommends everyone older than 6 months get the flu vaccine. Medical studies show getting the flu vaccine has proven to be very safe and effective in preventing people from catching the flu.