As severe flu strain becomes predominant, doctors keep eye out for possible second wave

As severe flu strain becomes predominant, doctors keep eye out for possible second wave
Louisiana ranks among states with highest flu cases (Source: CDC)

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Those lucky enough to dodge the flu this year may not be in the clear yet. Doctors say there’s a new strain of flu making its way around that’s even more serious than the one before.

The number of flu cases has been widespread throughout the state, and now, the type has changed.

“Earlier in the year, it was the H1N1 strain of virus, and now it’s the H3N2 strain, which is the same strain as last year’s, and usually, when that strain starts to predominate, we see more severe infections,” said Dr. Fred Lopez with LSU Health Infectious Diseases.

This means for those who lucked out on staying healthy so far, there’s still a chance to catch the new dominant strain.

Dr. Joseph Kanter with the State Health Department says this was the same trend they saw last year, with higher-than-average visits to the hospital.

“For all visits to healthcare providers right now, 11.8% of those are for flu-like illness. That’s a very very high number. The regional baseline among states in this region is only 4 percent,” Kanter said.

Some parents said they haven't caught the bug yet, and took preventative measures to keep it that way.

“I was vaccinated against the flu in my third trimester. The doctors recommended it, so I went ahead and did it, but when the baby was born, she had a little vaccination because of it,” Lesley Brown said.

"Generally, we get vaccinated every season from the flu, cause we know even if you get the flu vaccine, you probably can still get the flu, but you're less likely to get complications from the flu," Ericka Stone said.

Stone said she's aware of how serious the flu can be.

“One of our fellow physician moms, her 6-year-old son, they were scheduled to get the flu vaccine the following week, and he ended up coming down with the flu and he passed away within a few days,” Stone said.

The CDC website says there’s still an elevated number of flu cases nationwide and here at home, despite a steady drop in the recent weeks.

“This is the first week that we’ve seen the numbers go down a little bit, and we won’t know if that’s a sustained trend until we get the numbers for this next week,” Kanter said.

Last year, there were 1,600 deaths from the flu in the state, while the State Health Department estimates 700 deaths so far.

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