BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - With flu season starting, 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 yearly in Louisiana with tens of thousands of deaths across the country.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and LDH recommend yearly flu shots for everyone over six months of age who does not have a complicating condition, such as allergic reactions to the shot.
Dr. Rebkah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health said flu activity is being seen early this year and an annual flu shot is the best way for people to protect themselves from the flu, which can be very serious or even deadly.
"Flu shots have been proven time and time again to be both safe and effective, and I encourage everyone to take this important step to protect their communities this flu season," Gee said.
Getting 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.
Dr. Frank Welch, medical director for the Louisiana Department of Health Immunization Program, said not only do flu shots protect individuals from getting the flu, it also keeps people from spreading it to others who are more vulnerable.
"Some people are not eligible for a flu shot, which makes it especially important that others in the community get vaccinated," Welch said. "Although a young, healthy person might not get very sick from the flu, they can be a carrier and pass it on to someone in a high-risk group who might become seriously ill."
Flu shots are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, who can pass on antibodies to their babies and help protect them, Welch added.
Flu shots offer partial protection immediately, but take about two weeks to offer full protection. The shot is now available at local pharmacies, clinics, doctor's officers and federally qualified community health centers.
The nasal flu spray, shown to be ineffective, is no longer recommended by the CDC.