NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - If you think you have dodged the risk of the flu just because the season began early, you may be mistaken.
"High levels of flu activity and widespread activity in the state of Louisiana, this has been going on for over a month," said Dr. Fred Lopez, M.D., an infectious diseases specialist at LSU Health New Orleans.
A map released by the Louisiana Department of Health Friday which covers January 14, 2018 -January 20, 2018 makes it clear that all areas of the state are impacted by the influenza infection.
LDH said influenza-like illness in the state is 10.1 percent and that is above the regional baseline of 4.2 percent.
"It looks like this season will approach the 2014-2015 which is our last moderately severe season and we'll see how it approach the 2009-10 season which was even busier in terms of severe flu activity," said Dr. Lopez.
At Castellon Pharmacy on Oak Street pharmacist and owner Scott Beninato, RPh., said there has definitely been an increase in the number of prescriptions he is filling for Tamiflu.
"Since the middle of December, we've ordered over 80 packages of it in just four weeks where before we'd done maybe eight, 10," said Beninato.
He said fortunately, the supply side of Tamiflu and the generic form of the drug remains healthy at a time of high demand.
"We have it now where when one of the kids in the family gets it they'll treat the whole family prophylactically, so instead of dispensing one pack we might dispense five or six packs," said Beninato.
"In an active flu season, particularly in individuals who haven't been vaccinated who develop flu-like symptoms this really does become primarily a clinical diagnosis, one made by virtue of what one hears are the symptoms and how the activity of the flu is occurring in the community," said Dr. Lopez.
Many medical professionals administer flu tests that give near instantaneous results but reviews are mixed.
"Many are not very good. Those rapid flu tests, they're very good if they're positive. They're not particularly good if they're negative for ruling out the infection," said Dr. Lopez.
He said usual symptoms include fever, body aches and even G.I. issues.
"You almost feel like you got run over by a truck when you get the flu," Dr. Lopez stated.
And medical professionals said it is not too late to get vaccinated.
"So if you haven't gotten your flu vaccine, go get it," Lopez said.
"I've given flu shots as late as May of last year," added Beninato.
Dr. Lopez said a large percentage of Louisiana residents fail to get the vaccine.
"In any given year, one in every five individuals will get infected with the flu. Many people are not getting the flu vaccine. In fact, it's been estimated that less than 50-percent in the state of Louisiana receive the flu vaccine during the flu season and as a result, there are a lot of people who are at-risk for getting the infection," said Dr. Lopez.