By Nicondra Norwood| January 9, 2017 at 9:34 PM CST - Updated August 12 at 6:50 PM
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE)
The frigid weekend weather kept many people inside sharing quality time, but all of that time together could make you more vulnerable to the flu virus. There is a downside to all that cuddling by the fireplace as we are hitting the peak of flu season, and it's already looking worse than last year.
“Wash your hands, wash your hands and wash your hands,” said Dr. Eric Griggs, who says that is the ultimate first line of defense to all the winter bugs that people are contracting.
The Centers for Disease Control is reporting about 10,000 flu cases as of last week in 2016. The Louisiana State Health Department said for that week, flu-like illnesses were high for Louisiana, especially in places like New Orleans and the Houma-Thibodaux areas. State officials say it’s difficult to get very specific numbers, because many people never see a doctor for flu symptoms and some areas of the state have more ability to test. Also, everyone showing flu-like symptoms is not actually positive for the virus.
Still, doctors say we need to be extra vigilant as the peak of the flu season runs from December to February. We often think it's the changing weather that makes us sick, but doctors say spending time in close quarters makes it easy for us to pass along the flu and a number of other nasty viruses.
"We are constantly at war," Griggs said. "I know it's the peak of flu season, but there are so many other things. There's the norovirus that's common during the winter. There's the bacteria that causes strep B. There's all the bugs and critters and things that kids bring home to their parents that we pass around to each other. The difference is if it jumps on you suddenly like a bear. The fever, the sweats, the nausea, the vomiting, the GI symptoms. You are feeling fine and all of a sudden you feel bad, there's a high likelihood it's the flu."
Doctor Griggs says the number one strain identified so far is covered by this year's vaccine, but two out of five people have not gotten the vaccination yet.
“You should always get a flu vaccine," he said. "It's kind of early to tell whether or not the flu shot is effective. If two people out of five, only two people out of five are getting the flu shot, that means three people around you need to be extra careful.”
He points out that even those vaccinated are only protected against the three to four most common viruses determined from the previous year’s outbreak. He compares that protection to having good locks on your doors, but germs still looking for a way in.
It's not too late to get vaccinated, and Griggs said generally taking good care of yourself is extra important during this time of year.
“Even the things that people don't think about. These are stressful times. Things like sleep are really important. Your body resets. It resets your immune system if you don't get enough sleep, you don't eat the right things, you don't get checked, get fit. Keep moving. You can get sick and that's what happens.”