BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana Department of Health estimates between 7,000 and 8,000 people will be hospitalized this flu season.
Here in the capital city, a spokesperson for Baton Rouge General said the hospital has seen a 450 percent increase in positive flu cases from this time last year.
Amid a busy flu season for 49 states, 9News spoke with Baton Rouge doctors about what to do and what not do when treating the flu.
Doctors say getting the flu shot is very important in preventing the disease and helping patients get over it quickly. State health officials have been urging Louisiana residents to get the flu shot and on Wednesday gave out free flu shots across the state.
If you think you have the flu, "the first step is you should have already gotten your flu shot," said Dr. Nelson Perret, who is the Medical Director of the LSU Student Health Center.
Dr. Vincent Shaw, the Program Director of BRG Family Medicine Residency Program, explains that while the flu shot might not guarantee complete prevention of the flu if you do get the flu the shot will shorten the course and decrease the severity of flu symptoms.
When asked about the drug Tamiflu, doctors 9News talked to said they believed if the patient takes the medicine as directed they have nothing to worry about.
Dr. Perrett explained that flu patients who are normally healthy are normally only prescribed Tamiflu within 48 hours of getting the flu. It's only given after 48 hours to patients under 5 years old, over 60 years old, or patients with chronic illnesses.
If you think you have the flu, you should talk to a doctor. And that doesn't necessarily mean stepping into the doctor's office. Dr. Shaw suggests calling your doctor for guidance and "try to stay away from other people in order to prevent the spread of germs."
He said members of his staff are trained to recognize the signs of the flu in patients who walk in the waiting room. If the staff thinks a patient has the flu they give them a mask to cover their mouth and prevent it from spreading to other patients and staff members.
Dr. Shaw even recommends masks to people who have or might have the flu when they go out in public.
"It might seem silly, but there is nothing wrong with having something that prevents the spread of disease," he said.
Dr. Shaw says one of the problems with this flu season is that he has seen more cases of the influenza A virus instead of influenza B virus, which is more common during flu season. Influenza A is also more resilient and spreads faster than influenza B.
Patients who have influenza A typically have symptoms of a fever, cough, and bad body aches, all of which can be mistaken for symptoms of a cold. Patients with influenza B typically experience symptoms of nausea and diarrhea.
If your doctor says you have the flu, the next thing you should do is take their prescribed medicine, drink plenty of fluids, and get plenty of rest. It's also very important you isolate yourself from others to prevent the flu from spreading.
If you have the flu and live with other family members or roommates be sure to avoid close contact, wash your hands regularly, and protect your cough to prevent the flu from spreading.
"If you have the flu, the worst thing you can do is go to work," Dr. Shaw said.
It's also important very important to let a doctor know if you're not getting better.
"If you get shortness of breath, repetitive vomiting, significant dizziness, or confusion you need to call a doctor," Dr. Perrett said.
Unfortunately, flu deaths are common during flu season. According to Dr. Shaw, most of the deaths occur in patients who are really young or really old because of their weak immune systems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported at least 37 children have died of flu-related illnesses this season.
Both Dr. Perrett and Dr. Shaw say residents should not panic about the flu but they strongly advise for people to get flu shots if they have not already.