NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -Doctors are seeing a record number of flu cases in Louisiana. Patients are also getting sick with a number of other viruses like RSV and stomach bugs too.
That means doctors like Leah Douglas with Children’s Hospital of New Orleans are staying very busy this holiday season.
“We’re just seeing record cases of sick visits be it from Flu, RSV or other illness,” said Douglas, M.D.
This year doctors say Louisiana is getting hit hard with an early flu season. The respiratory virus RSV is also sending children to the hospital.
“We are definitely seeing a lot of secondary complications from flu and RSV infections. One of the biggest concerns with RSV is that a child will develop trouble breathing or have a bronchiolitis or a lower respiratory tract infection that can lead to secondary pneumonia and low oxygen levels. Children can become dehydrated because they’re not feeling well so they won’t take enough fluids,” said Douglas.
The Louisiana Department of Health says people underestimate just how dangerous flu season can be.
“This is an earlier start than last year, no question. It’s the earliest start we’ve seen in many years. It’s too early to say how bad the season is going to be. Last year in Louisiana we saw over 15,000 hospitalizations from the flu and about 1,550 deaths,” said Joseph Kanter, M.D.,M.P.H.,with the Louisiana Department of Health.
Doctors say your best defenses against getting sick are washing your hands frequently, staying home if you’re feeling sick, and getting the flu shot.
“There is still benefit to getting the flu vaccine even though we’re late in the season. It’s still efficacious to go ahead and get it if you haven’t done so yet. It does a good job at preventing the flu and people that still get the flu, it tends to lessen the severity of that illness which means there’s less of a chance of landing in the hospital,” said Kanter.
And with the holiday season upon us, Dr. Douglas expects to see another round of patients soon.
“We do expect things to pick up after everyone has gotten together because they can transmit the flu or RSV or other viruses to one another,” said Douglas. “If you have a red flag that goes off, if your child is running fever, seems to be having difficulty breathing, aren’t making a good number of wet diapers those could be a sign they’re sick. So, definitely would recommend contacting your pediatrician right away.”
We also checked with the Ochsner Health System. A spokesperson tells us Louisiana and New Orleans have become the epicenter of the early flu outbreak this season, with it largely impacting the pediatric population.
More than 70 percent of Ochsner’s flu cases are children.