BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Doctors are urging patients to add the flu shot to their “to do” list this holiday season. The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) made them available Thursday for free to make sure everyone is protected before winter.
Before Dr. Tim Durel examines his patients this time of year, he’s sure to have one very important conversation with them. He says he knows first hand how bad the flu can be. He had it last year and he has not forgotten the experience.
“It’s days stuck on the couch with extreme exhaustion. It’s significant muscle aches and pains. It’s high fevers and upper respiratory tract symptoms, sore throat, hacking cough,” Dr. Durel said. Imagine that all at once. The thing about the flu is, it does not take much for the virus to spread.
“The flu is pretty darn contagious. We see it spread easily. You can see every year, look at the maps and the way it spreads across the country,” said Dr. Durel.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 79,000 people died across the country from influenza-associated illnesses. More than 1,600 were from Louisiana. Another 15,000 people were hospitalized.
“Last year was a high severity year,” said Dr. Marilyn Reynoud with the Louisiana Office of Public Health.
Dr. Reynoud says for that reason, LDH offered the vaccine to the public free of charge. She says Louisiana doctors are starting to see an increase in the number of flu-like illnesses, and they expect that number will only rise as families gather for the holidays. “We usually don’t see a peak of the flu in our location until the months of January or February, so this is a good time to get vaccinated if you haven’t already,” she said.
The CDC says everyone over the age of 6-months-old should get the flu shot, especially the elderly. There are even formulas available for people who suffer from egg allergies. Dr. Durel says he spends a lot of time dispelling myths about the vaccine.
“Everybody’s cousin Eddie or uncle Bobby had the flu after he got the flu shot. That’s not how it works. A lot of people say, ‘I’ve never had the flu. Why would I start getting the vaccine?’ That’s not how it works either. If you’ve never had, it you’ve gotten lucky,” Dr. Durel said.
This doctor says it’s not a risk anyone should take.