NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Health officials are bracing for what could be a severe flu season. Already, Louisiana is seeing more cases than other parts of the country.
"We are way ahead of the rest of the country, we have lots and lots of flu across Louisiana," said Dr. Frank Welch with the Louisiana Department of Health. "We typically get big flu activity in February and March, and so to see it in December, especially early December, is really rare for us."
What's worse? Health officials are concerned that this year's flu vaccine may only be about 10 percent effective against the A strain of the virus. That's what happened during Australia's flu season, and doctors say that can be an indicator of what we can expect to see here in the United States since we use the same flu shot.
"It's the A type which tends to be more serious. Now there's nothing to say that's going to be the dominant strain for us throughout the course of the winter, and remember there are three other strains in the vaccine, but it is an indicator that it might be a more serious flu season than we have had before," said Welch.
New Orleans' Dr. Brobson Lutz also has concerns.
"What is most disturbing for me, and probably some of the worst Influenza news I've heard in the last 30 years, is that the strain that seems to be causing a lot of the problems is not in the current vaccine, and if this strain is really infectious, meaning contagious from person to person, we could be having a major problem here too," said Lutz.
Doctors agree that even though this year's vaccine may not have as much protection against the flu, it's still your best defense against getting sick.
"There's really no doubt about it. People that get the influenza immunization every year as a percentage have fewer problems," said Lutz.
"Even though the vaccine isn't perfectly matched, it still exposes your body to those flu antigens, and so you may still get the flu but you wouldn't get as serious of a flu case," said Welch.
Health experts say if you haven't already, you should get the flu vaccine now before the holidays.
To avoid getting sick, doctors advise washing your hands, covering your cough and staying away from those who are sick.
If you do get sick, call your doctor and stay home from school and work until you get better.