CDC: Louisiana among states with high flu activity

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Behind a bright orange bio-hazard sign at our lady of the lake hospital, sits the people who are most exposed to the flu virus: lab workers who test thousands of patient samples.

"We've had about 2.000 test performed at the lake and about 16 percent of them have been positive," said pathologist Dr. Jennifer Jastram.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Louisiana is among 29 states with high flu activity, especially type A flu.  While the type of flu a patient has doesn't affect the treatment of the virus, it is vital information when it comes to making a vaccine.

"Each virus has a different finger print to it, and what we're doing is looking at very specific parts of that virus to tell us what type it is," said Jastram.  "That way when you're formulating a new vaccine you can say we have this, and that way the population is protected against this for the following year."

This year's vaccine does protect against all of the type A flu viruses, and most of type B strains.  However, doctors say the key to protection is actually getting the vaccine.

"A lot of times we see trends up as far as obtaining influenza just because people don't get vaccinated," said Dr. Michael Bolton who specializes in pediatric infectious disease.

While a vaccine does not guarantee you won't come down with the flu, doctors say it is still the first and best defense, and that the vaccine can even help minimize flu symptoms.

Symptoms for the flu are similar to many other respiratory problems.  So, doctors say there are a few things to look out for if you are feeling under the weather.

"If they have fever for a couple of days, if they have pain all over, upper respiratory tract symptoms like runny nose, cough, cold, and then if they know someone who has had influenza we recommend that you get check out by your pediatrician or your internist," said Bolton.

Doctors also say it is not too late to get a flu shot, and that it takes about two weeks before the vaccine is fully active.

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