Due to widespread flu activity remaining throughout Louisiana, the Louisiana Department of Health will continue to offer flu vaccines at no cost at Parish Health Units across the state while supplies last. The vaccine is available to anyone who has not yet received a vaccine this flu season.
According to influenza surveillance reports compiled by the Department for the week of January 28 to February 3, influenza activity remains very high in the state. Reported cases of people with influenza-like illnesses are more than twice the activity seen in a typical flu season.
"Louisiana is continuing to see widespread flu activity in this, particularly severe flu season. The strain of the flu we are seeing now is one that typically causes more severe illness, and results in higher hospitalization rates and deaths," said Dr. Frank Welch, state immunization medical director. "Hospitals continue to report large numbers of sick patients and providers are reporting high numbers of patient visits due to flu and flu-like symptoms."
Welch added that he expects to see high rates of flu continue for the next several weeks.
From January 29 to February 10, almost 4,000 flu vaccines have been administered to Louisianans at no cost to the public as part of the Department's efforts to make vaccines available to as many people as possible. Several thousand doses remain from the State's high-risk campaign.
"We want to make sure that we utilize every dose we have if there is someone who wants it," said Welch.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Louisiana Department of Health 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.
Wear short or loose-fitting sleeves and bring your private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare card if you have one.
To schedule an appointment to receive a vaccination, find the Parish Health Unit nearest to you by visiting http://ldh.la.gov/FightTheFlu and then call to schedule your visit.
Flu Shot Facts
Flu activity in Louisiana continues to be high throughout the state. The Office of Public Health monitors patients with flu-like symptoms using a health care provider surveillance system. In a typical flu season, the system reports about five percent of people seeking care at doctor's offices, clinic and hospitals have flu-like symptoms. Currently this year, the number is more than 10 percent.
A flu shot is especially crucial for people who may be at higher risk for serious complications. This includes babies and young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions and people 65 years and older.
The flu shot is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, who can pass on antibodies to their babies that will help protect them.
The flu shot starts to offer partial protection immediately but takes about two weeks to offer full protection.
Visit www.ldh.la.gov/fighttheflu for more information and resources.