Flu cases continue to rise, doctors say kids are hit the hardest

Health experts encourage flu shots as cases continue to grow.
Health experts encourage flu shots as cases continue to grow.(FOX 8)
Updated: Nov. 8, 2019 at 6:54 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Louisiana has been one of the hardest-hit areas for this year's flu season, and it doesn't seem to be easing up.

Doctors now say they're seeing a spike in kids hospitalized for flu-like illness.

With cooler temperatures coming, and Keely Hase said she keeps her son bundled up, and plans to get him vaccinated to avoid the flu this season.

"I have mine, I made an appointment for him, for my four year old son, and my oldest son, he's good too," Hase said.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, patients reporting flu-like illness jumped by more than one percent from last week.

"We are way ahead. Both in terms of other states in the country, and also in terms of where we were this time in flu seasons past," Joseph Kanter, Assistant State Health Officer at Louisiana Department of Health said.

Some doctors said the upward trend is reflected in recent hospitalizations.

"We're seeing an uptick in the number of patients that we see come in with flu symptoms, runny nose, fevers, cough, congestion, those sorts of symptoms," Dr. Nirav Patel, University Medical Center Chief Medical Officer said.

Patel said most of the patients coming in with flu-like symptoms are kids.

“Kids usually start off as the if you want to say the canary in the coal mine. They’re the ones that are more likely to pick it up, share it among each other at school, daycare, in classroom settings,” Patel said.

He said that's when parents and adults start catching the virus.

"In my mind, we anticipate seeing the surge in adult cases over the next several weeks," Patel said.

Patel said those with underlying health issues, may experience worse symptoms with the flu.

"Sometimes they're not necessarily coming in with the classic flu symptoms. They're coming in more with they have COPD, their COPD's worse, or they have heart failure. Their heart failure's worse, or sometimes their diabetes gets worse, and so those are the diseases that we're seeing," Patel said.

Medical experts said while this early start may be indicative of a long season ahead, there are preventative measures to bring numbers down.

“If we all see this, we don’t like seeing Louisiana as number one for flu right now, and we go and got vaccinated, we could keep a relatively close lid on flu season for the rest of the season. If we ignore it, at our own peril, it could be a really tough one on the state,” Alex Billioux, Office of Public Health Assistant Secretary said.

He said free flu shots will be available November 23 at the St. Bernard Recreation Center.

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