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Flu season hits state hard

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Dr. Ulich gives tips on flu prevention, treatment

Flu season is in full effect, and reports indicate Louisiana is especially flu-stricken this time around.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify Louisiana as one of seven states that have “widespread” influenza activity. Six of these seven states are in the South.

In light of this spike in flu cases, Dr. Michael Ulich at Minden Pediatrics said he recommends everyone consider the flu shot as the season progresses.

“It may not prevent every case, but it often can still reduce the symptoms, so we’re still encouraging patients to get flu shots, especially if you’re young, old, or have any chronic diseases,” he said.

Northwest Louisiana is not quite as affected as some other regions in the state, checking in at the 2-5% range of “influenza like illness” over the last four weeks based on CDC sentinel surveillance data. This range is described as medium/low, while four other regions of Louisiana are in the medium/high bracket.

Ulich said while the Minden area is experiencing a high number of flu cases, the severity of the cases have not been as concerning.

“We’ve seen a lot of it, but we haven’t had to hospitalize a lot of patients,” he said. “Sometimes you have a milder flu season but it’s a more virulent strand, and we’re admitting a lot of children to the hospital. We really haven’t admitted anyone for complications from the flu. I think the flu shot has prevented a lot of hospitalizations.”

As for the reason behind the increased influence of influenza in the Deep South, Ulich said radical weather changes may be part of the cause.

“Like with anything else, the change in weather this year doesn’t help,” he said. “It’s really been extreme, going from summer-like conditions to colder than some northern states. That can really ramp up the flu and make it more active. Not necessarily stronger though.”

In addition to the usual hygiene tips like hand-washing, covering the mouth, and coughing into the elbow, Ulich said a good strategy is often to wait a few days before visiting the doctor.

“Fever doesn’t immediately mean you have to go to your doctor,” he said. “Parents often bring the kids in prematurely. They have a run-of-the-mill flu or cold virus with a fever, they come in, and they get exposed to something else in the hall.”

Ulich said he has made an effort to educate the public on the importance of avoiding premature doctor’s visits for the last 12 years.

“I understand you need a school excuse, but if you call and tell me about their fever on a Monday, and then on a Thursday you call and tell me the fever broke and you’re sending them back to school, I’ll write you an excuse. So sometimes you can stay home through the first day or two of a fever and avoid the risk of getting something else.”

Ulich said he advises parents to pay more attention to how the child acts when the fever comes down, rather than their behavior at the height of fever.

“It’s only a real concern if they’re still acting sick when the fever comes down,” he said. “This education of waiting to bring the kids in can prevent a lot of flu cases by helping kids avoid the risk of extra exposure.”

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