BATON ROUGE, La.—Louisiana's weekly flu report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes a pediatric death, which brings the total number of child deaths from the flu in Louisiana this season to two. Federal law requires that states report all flu deaths in children to the CDC. The latest pediatric death is in Southeast Louisiana, the first was in Northwest Louisiana, which shows that the entire state is at risk.
Since Oct. 1, 2013, high tech lab tests have confirmed at least 46 deaths statewide from influenza. However, hundreds of people die in Louisiana each year without ever being diagnosed with the flu or from other conditions made worse by influenza, so this figure does not represent the full risk to the population of the flu.
CDC evaluations, adjusted to the 2014 situation in Louisiana, estimate since October 2013 in Louisiana there may have been up to 500,000 cases, up to 5,000 hospitalizations, and up to 500 deaths caused by influenza. The statewide estimate by the CDC is based on their data adjusted for 2014. To understand more about how CDC produces their estimates please visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/us_flu-related_deaths.htm#categories
H1N1 is the dominant strain of flu that is circulating right now. All can be deadly. Louisiana's flu activity remains widespread and high. Health officials expect this year's flu season to continue into April. According to the state's most recent influenza surveillance data, flu symptoms accounted for about 4.7 percent of the state's doctor visits last week. The state's seasonal flu activity is most prevalent in North and Central Louisiana. Click here to view the influenza surveillance reports.
Because of the increases, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is strongly encouraging all residents who haven't already done so to protect themselves and their families by getting a seasonal flu vaccination. Each year, the flu kills more than 36,000 Americans.
"The flu shot is your best protection," said J.T. Lane, assistant secretary for Public Health. "It's not too late to vaccinate. Once you get the shot, it takes about 7-10 days to be fully protected. This year's vaccination will protect against the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus."
The CDC recommends everyone older than 6 months get the flu vaccine. Medical studies show getting the flu vaccine has proven to be very safe and effective in preventing people from catching the flu.
While everyone should get a flu vaccine, vaccination is especially critical for certain groups of people who are at a higher risk of developing flu-related complications. Those groups include:
Vaccination is also important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for high-risk individuals to keep from spreading flu to people who may be especially susceptible to the virus' effects including anyone who works with babies younger than 6 months of age, who are not eligible for the vaccine, themselves. This year's vaccine is plentiful and available at many places, including health care providers, pharmacies, some employers and Louisiana's parish health units.
In addition to getting the vaccine, DHH encourages the public to take other preventive actions to stop the spread of the flu:
For more information on flu activity by region in Louisiana and to find out how you can avoid being ill, visit www.FighttheFlu.la.gov.