Flu cases surging earlier than usual across Louisiana

Published: Oct. 21, 2022 at 4:54 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Children’s Hospital in New Orleans is nearly full with children sick from the flu. Doctors say they’re seeing spikes in the number of people infected, both children and adults, much earlier than in past years. Numbers they describe as concerning.

With two little kids -- one of them in daycare -- the Simon family knows all about the illnesses spread easily among children. They’re always washing hands and trying to stay healthy.

“We do that every day a lot right, that’s just part of the nature of having two little ones, you better be washing up a lot,” Cameron Simon says.

But right now, a number of kids across Louisiana are battling the flu.

“Our primary care practices have been inundated, the emergency department’s been inundated and we’re seeing quite a number of children hospitalized,” Dr. Mark Kline, the Physician-in-Chief at Children’s Hospital New Orleans says.

Over the past couple of years, COVID restrictions such as masking and social distancing kept flu numbers at bay. Now, those protections have eased.

“There’s a sizable cohort of young children who’ve never been exposed to the flu and who don’t have any immunity to it so the flu is just running rampant in that population in particular,” Kline explains.

Kids who get pneumonia or have respiratory distress from the flu get hospitalized. It’s putting a strain on the hospital system across the entire state.

“We’ve been full or close to full for a couple of weeks now, so yeah, this is taking a toll on us,” Kline stated.

The peak of flu season is typically January or February, so if these early numbers are any indication, it could be a long few months.

“In the Southern Hemisphere, in Australia, they’ve been through their flu season and they had a pretty active season so we expect we’re going to have a pretty active season, we have to be ready for it,” Dr. Jeffrey Elder, medical director for emergency management at LCMC says. “Really, now’s the time that you go out and get your kids vaccinated before we hit the peak of that season.”

The Simon family feels prepared, saying their kids are both vaccinated. Now, they’re hoping for the best.

Despite rising flu numbers, COVID numbers are very low right now, which is a great sign. Doctors say even if beds at Children’s Hospital are full of flu patients, a sick child will never be turned away.

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