BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Just as hurricane season winds down, there's another dangerous season ramping up. The flu virus is already spreading in the Baton Rouge area, and five minutes this fall could save you five days of misery this winter.
"We've seen a few scattered cases," said Dr. Kevin DiBenedetto, medical director of Lake After Hours. "It hasn't really hit yet. This is the time
of year when everybody starts looking for it, especially when the holiday season comes up and people travel more."
As we bump elbows in airports and shopping malls, you'll want the protection of a flu shot. DiBenedetto said there seems to be a good supply of the quadrivalent vaccine, which protects against four different strains of flu.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends everyone over six months of age get the vaccine – no exceptions. There's also a high-dose version for those people 65 and older.
"Older people do not create a good immune response as they age. Therefore by giving more antigen, you're getting a better immune response, and it has shown to be effective in creating a higher level of antibody to the flu," DiBenedetto explained.
What about children and pregnant women? Woman's Hospital encourages all of their patients to protect themselves and their precious cargo.
"Infants aren't eligible for the shot until six months of age, and if pregnant woman get the flu shot during this flu season, there's evidence that it protects their child through those first six months, so it's extremely important for them to get their flu shots," said chief medical officer Dr. Susan Puyau.
Immunocompromised patients should also get the flu shot, but as is the case with pregnant women, that's the ONLY appropriate form of the vaccine.
"The nasal shot, which is generally given to children, should not be given to pregnant women or immunocompromised patients, because it does have live virus," Puyau explained.
The virus in the syringe, however, is dead, meaning there's absolutely zero risk of contracting the flu from the shot. A slight fever is possible as a reaction to the shot, and the vaccine doesn't take full effect for 10 to 14 days. It is still possible to catch other viral infections similar to the flu.
Because the timing and severity of outbreaks often depend on mutations of flu strains, flu season is extremely unpredictable. Both doctors agree that
the vaccine is the best protection available.
"It can be lethal. I mean, people died last year with the flu, even a lot of children died. So is it really worth that risk as opposed to getting a simple shot in the arm?" DiBenedetto asked.
"Get your flu shot!" Puyau implored. "Protect yourself. And if you're pregnant, your baby."
The first symptoms of the flu often include sudden onset of fever, fatigue and body aches. You should see a doctor within 24 hours for the best chance at treatment as flu medications often won't be prescribed after 48 hours of the first symptoms.