NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The National College Football Championship is just days away and Carnival season is already here. That means tens of thousands of visitors will be in New Orleans and doctors say it could bring another wave of flu to Louisiana.
A favorite time of year in New Orleans is here again. We’re talking parades, throws and the LSU Tigers in a National Championship game too.
But doctors say that many people coming together could also make Louisiana even more vulnerable to a second peak in what has already been an early and bad flu season here.
“Unfortunately, Louisiana has been ahead of the curve this year. We had a very early and strong start to our flu season and it continues to be that way,” says Dr. Jospeh Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health.
America’s top infectious disease doctor is warning that this flu season could be one of the worst in decades and the state health department has concerns too.
“Last year we saw about 1550 deaths in the state of Louisiana and that wasn’t even a terrible flu season for us,” says Dr. Kanter. “People really underestimate how bad the flu is and how many people die every year from the flu and it’s sad because there’s easy things we can do to protect ourselves.”
And you might be surprised to learn just how easy the flu spreads. A sneeze can easily reach a few feet.
“It spreads very easily. All it takes is just being in conversation with someone to have it spread or shaking someone’s hand and not washing your hands.”
That’s why doctors say your best protection is getting the flu shot and washing your hands a lot.
“Wash your hands. ABC song. Twinkle, twinkle, little star song. Twenty seconds to wash your hands,” says Dr. Eric Griggs. “It’s hard to say during Mardi Gras because we’re a huggy, kissy culture. We shake hands, hug, kiss, the whole nine. Use the flu fist bump. The Mardi Gras fist bump. A healthy diet. Get your flu shots.”
Health Educator Dr. Eric Griggs adds if you’re feeling under the weather, stay at home. Especially if you have a fever higher than 100.3, chills and body aches.
“If you are sick, if you have plans to go to the game, sorry, stay home. If you have been around someone who has been sick, stay home,” says Dr. Griggs. “Keep your hands and your bugs to yourself. Catch the beads, not the flu.”
“And some people can transmit before they get really sick themselves. That’s why things like good hand hygiene and the flu vaccine are so important,” says Dr. Kanter.
Dr. Griggs says another thing we have working against us during carnival season is we don’t get enough sleep and we don’t necessarily eat healthy.
He stresses the importance of both of those and making sure you stay hydrated. He also recommends bringing hand sanitizers with you if you don’t have access to soap and water.