Don’t let the flu bug bite

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The Louisiana Department of Health reminds all residents of the importance of getting an annual flu vaccine. The flu causes approximately 500 deaths and nearly 3,000 hospitalizations each year in Louisiana, and tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S.

Flu cases are surging in the state and Dr. Bill Luster says it’s going to be the worst flu season in several years.

“It’s nothing to be panicked over,” he said. “Be aware and be prepared. Get your flu shots now.”

The flu comes through Natchitoches every year in the winter months and it mutates all the time. This year’s flu is H3N2 is a more serious subtype of influenza A. This means it’s tougher for peoples’ immune systems to fight, which makes it easier to catch and easier to spread.

While flu vaccines are usually 40-60 percent effective, Dr. Luster said this year’s batch isn’t as effective.

“We’ll see a lot more people getting sick, but it’s still worth getting a flu vaccine,” he said. “I haven’t seen anything like it in years.”

Dr. Luster said his practice, Cane River Family Medicine, ran out of flu vaccines, but has more coming in.

“If you get the flu, see your doctor immediately,” he said. “Also, get on Tamiflu within 48 hours of flu symptom onset. Stay home until you haven’t had a fever for 48 hours.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Louisiana Department of Heath recommend a yearly flu shot for everyone over six months of age who does not have a complicating condition, such as a prior allergic reaction to the flu shot.

The flu shot starts to offer partial protection immediately, but takes about two weeks to offer full protection. Flu shots are now available at local pharmacies, clinics, doctor’s offices and federally qualified (community) health centers. Check flushot.healthmap.org for a flu shot provider near you.

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