Two cases of the flu have been confirmed, which means flu season has officially arrived in Webster Parish.
“We’ve already had two cases of the flu documented this year, so we’re already in flu season,” said Dr. Kim Reagan, pediatrician.
Ashley Frye, infection preventionist with Minden Medical Center, says the flu season typically begins around October, although last year it hit the northwest Louisiana region earlier than expected and lasted longer than expected. In 2013-14, the medical industry missed the mark on flu vaccinations as the H1N1 hit the region with a vengeance.
“The ones (vaccinations) that we are using right now has two strains of A and two strains of B,” she said, adding that one strain of A is the H1N1 virus. “They all get treated the same. When it comes to treating the patient, the type doesn’t really matter, because it all gets treated the same.”
H1N1 is now considered the seasonal flu, she said. H1N2 was the strain predominant in 2014-15.
The flu season usually goes from October to April or May of the next year, she says.
She says someone with the flu who is not presenting symptoms will spread it, because they don’t know they are sick.
“Let’s say you get sick on a Tuesday and you’re contagious,” she said. “On Monday, you are shedding the flu virus and you don’t even know you are sick. That’s why the flu starts spreading so rapidly. You start shedding that virus, you’re contagious a day before you know you are sick.”
She says the best way to prevent it is to get the flu vaccination.
Hand hygiene is extremely important as well, she said. Washing hands and using hand sanitizer on a regular basis will help hinder the spread of the virus.
While it may be more important for certain groups of people to get the flu shot, like the elderly or those with chronic illnesses, she says everyone needs to get the vaccination.
It is also important for children to be vaccinated as well, Reagan said.
Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Reagan say the most common symptoms of the flu are fever/chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache and a runny or stuffy nose.
“We usually test for it with a swab and that’s how we know if you have the flu or not,” she said. “If you do have the flu, there’s some medicine we can prescribe called Tamiflu to help decrease the symptoms.”
Children are vaccinated against the flu as young as six months of age she said. If a child is between the age of two and nine, then the child will have to be vaccinated twice the first time. The first dose will be done and then a second dose will be administered approximately four weeks later, she said. If the child is age nine or older, then the first time they are vaccinated only requires one dose.
“Usually we start getting (vaccinations) in in October,” she said. “There is also a flu mist, which is like a nasal spray. Children over the age of two and don’t have a history of asthma can get that instead of the shot.”
Reagan explained the vaccinations given by injection are a dead virus while the flu mist is a live virus.
If an infant contracts the flu, they can become really sick, she said.
“The younger they are the more likely they are to have issues with breathing, like when they get runny noses,” she said. “I have seen kids die from the flu and I highly recommend everyone gets their flu shot. Most people don’t get that bad off, but those whose immune system doesn’t work quite right, they can get pretty sick from the flu too.”
The CDC says it takes about two weeks for the protection of the vaccination to take full effect and it lasts through the flu season.