NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Doctors at the Mid-City Ochsner Urgent Care say right now they’re seeing 5 to 15 patients sit in the waiting chairs daily with flu-like symptoms.
"Historically, we used to get late flu season in Louisiana but the last few years on the other hand we have been on the front edge of the flu," said Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich.
It’s a similar scene at Dr. Greg Fernandez’s Bayou Urgent Care in Chalmette. "We'll typically see 30 patients, most of those will have flu like illness,” Fernandez said. “Probably a good 70 percent will test positive for flu."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Louisiana leads the country in confirmed flu cases.
At the start of the flu season, Louisiana had the most cases. The CDC says week by week the numbers keep rising. Now, on the CDC’s flu report Louisiana has the highest activity. “We are seeing primarily B strains of flu in Louisiana,” said Dr. Fred Lopez with LSU Health Infectious Diseases. “Other parts of the country are seeing A strain.”
Lopez says it is unclear why Louisiana is experiencing so many flu-related cases.
"Nobody really knows,” Lopez said. “Did it start here for example? Do we have some outbreaks that started in this area and spread elsewhere?"
With holidays right around the corner, Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich says more people will likely get sick.
"People could get sicker during the holidays because they are around people more so we're gearing up and getting ready," said Cvitanovich.
He and Fernandez say urgent cares are seeing the bulk of cases.
"It does take a toll on the staff,” Cvitanovich said. “As we get closer to the holidays every urgent care center is going to get more and more business because a lot of doctor's office will shut down for the holiday."
"We're getting close to maximum visits," Fernandez said.
All three doctors say the best thing to do is to get the flu shot, even if you already got the flu.
“Just because right now we are seeing the B strain infections. Later in the year we may have the introductory of A strains causing infections,” said Lopez. “So, if you get affected with B strain currently, you can still get re-infected with an A strain later in the season.”
The state health department says while this early start may be indicative of a long season ahead, getting your flu shot can help bring numbers down.