The holiday season is over. Football season is winding down. It’s more than a month until baseball’s Spring Training season starts. So, what season are we in?
Doctors say local cases of the flu are remarkably higher than last year, especially in the past few weeks. Dr. Charles E. Baxter, assistant professor of clinical family medicine at LSU Health Shreveport, said the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza like illness was 5 percent, which is above the national baseline of 2.2 percent. And while reported cases are higher in the area, doctors also say the timing of the flu’s arrival in could be a blessing in disguise.
“With the kids being out of school (for Christmas break), it’s definitely a good thing,” said Dr. Danielle Raley with Family Medicine Associates. “But now they are going back, and hopefully they won’t be infecting each other.”
Raley has some recommendations for anyone who think they might have the flu.
“Anyone who has body or muscle aches, fever, chills or fatigue should go ahead and get checked out,” she said. “Avoid school or work until you get it check out. And if some in your house has come down with the flu, talk to your doctor about getting tested yourself.”
Dr. Donna Wyatt at the CHRISTUS Shreveport-Bossier Health System’s Family Practice in south Bossier said most symptoms can last four or five days, but some patients have fatigue and other symptoms last up to two weeks. She said that the antiviral medicine Tamil can shorten the duration, and ibuprofen can ease the fever and aches. And drinking plenty of fluids helps avoid the dehydration that come accompany fever and congestion.
Doctors agreed that if you have the flu, the best course of action is to stay home and rest to avoid spreading the flu to others.
“Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs,” Baxter said. “If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people, except to get medical care. If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are in a high risk group, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider.”
Those high-risk groups include the elderly, young children and women who are pregnant.
Doctors offered the following tips to help avoid getting the flu:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away after you use it.
- Stay away as much as you can from people who are sick.
- If you get the flu, stay home from work or school. If you are sick, do not go near other people so that you don’t make them sick too.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If you are not near water, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs often spread this way.
These actions can help prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory viruses during cold and flu season. The most important intervention to prevent the flu is receiving a flu vaccination.
Wyatt said reports of the flu vaccine being only 10 percent effective this year are misleading.
“At the CDC website, they go by what they see in Australia,” Wyatt said. “Their flu season predicts ours.”
Wyatt said that this year’s strain of the flu virus is the same type as last year, and she predicts a 40 percent effectiveness, the same as last year.
Regardless of the effectiveness rate, doctors say a flu shot is good advice.
“I’ve heard a lot about it only being 10 percent effective,” Raley said. “That’s hard to evaluate during the season. I still 100 percent recommend getting a shot. Get the shot. It’s not too late. And if you already have the flu, it will protect you from getting it again.”
By Scott Anderson