Public health official speaks about La. flu outbreak; season expected to last several more weeks

Dr. Parham Jaberi spoke at the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday about this year's severe flu season (Source: WAFB)
Dr. Parham Jaberi spoke at the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday about this year's severe flu season (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Flu season reached its peak two weeks ago, but health officials say it could be several more before you can expect to see any kind of relief.

It's the kind of flu season doctors had been warning patients about long before the temperatures dropped. After reports of a severe season surfaced and deaths associated with the flu hit headlines, more and more people started lining up for a round of protection. Louisiana Department of Health Assistant Secretary Dr. Parham Jaberi says more than 2,800 people took advantage of the state's free flu shot clinic on January 31.

"We stand by the vaccines are the most effective form of prevention," Jaberi said.

Each week, LHD puts out an Influenza Surveillance Report. This week's shows the number of people visiting hospitals with flu-like symptoms is very high. The regions are colored according to severity. Yellow indicates medium high, while red indicates very high.

"What's important is that there are flu cases across Louisiana, and what's important is that infectious diseases don't know borders," Jaberi said.

The number of people testing positive for the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has reached nearly 11 percent as of a couple of weeks ago. Dr. Jaberi says while experts are beginning to see a decline, it's small. At 8 percent as of Monday, February 5, it's still higher than last year.

"Based on the numbers we are seeing, we are not going to see a sharp drop. It's probably going to continue with us for another six to eight weeks," Jaberi said.

Dr. Jaberi says the good news is there's no shortage of vaccines or anti-viral medications used to treat the flu. He adds while many people are still hesitant to get the shot, research shows those who get one have a greater chance of beating the illness.

The state is offering free flu shots to anyone who has not gotten one through Monday, February 12.

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